FALFURRIAS—As drug violence escalates in the state’s large border towns and snakes its way up interstate highways to major cities, south Texas farmers and ranchers are struggling to find a solution to the steady stream of illegal immigrants who trespass on their property, destroy fences and leave behind trash, or worse, the bodies of those who can’t keep up on the journey.
Texas’ border with Mexico is not the same as it was 25 years ago, when south Texas farmers and ranchers might hire a few of the illegals who crossed it to find seasonal work and support their families.
Today, hundreds are coming across, and many don’t want farm jobs anymore, south Texas ranchers told the Arizona-based Minuteman Civil Defense Corps during a visit to the border region south of Falfurrias on Sunday. What some of them do want might be proving bad for Texas and even worse for the nation, they believe.
For the past couple of years, these ranchers have been meeting monthly with U.S. Border Patrol agents who work in the McAllen Sector, said Mike Vickers, a rancher and Falfurrias veterinarian who works in 10 counties. The meetings have convinced him and other ranchers of one thing: the U.S. Border Patrol doesn’t have what it needs to secure the border region south of Falfurrias. They’re looking at the Minuteman movement to learn what it can do to secure the Texas border.
Al Garza is a Vietnam vet born in Raymondville. His grandfather served in World War I and his father was a wounded veteran of World War II. Two of his siblings were killed in the Korean War. After his military service, Garza’s dad was a cop, and the family moved to towns all across south Texas, including Pharr, Falfurrias, Robstown, he said. They used to race horses at Goliad, he said.
When he was growing up, Garza said he was sympathetic to illegal immigrants who came to Texas looking for work. The only problems he had then were with white people, because prejudice did exist in those days, he said.
Garza said his attitude began to change, though, when he returned from the war in Vietnam. That’s when he began to see that illegal immigrants aren’t interested in helping America, only in what they can get from America, he said. The civil rights groups, in particular, rubbed Garza the wrong way.
“I lost respect for them, the way they talked about Vietnam vets. They called us baby killers,” Garza said. “I hate them. They think they can have rights, and the people who fought for this country don’t have any.”
Garza believes Mexico is corrupt, and its citizens who break the law to come here have no morals. “They’re here for the freebies. They’re not here to work. It’s a way of life,” Garza said.
Vickers and Presnall Cage both own ranchland along U.S. Highway 281 in southern Brooks County. In the past five years, as illegal immigration has worsened, 18 bodies of suspected illegal immigrants have been discovered on Cage’s property. He assumes they died of exposure.
Vickers has encountered countless groups, mostly families trekking across his property. He recalled a 9-year-old girl separated from her group who spent the night out in the open alone.
From what they can tell, the illegal immigrants are being dropped off south of the Border Patrols’ Falfurrias check station on U.S. 281. They walk north past the checkpoint until they come to a roadside park.
Vickers showed reporters his game-proof fence that’s folded down to half its height. It’s right across from the park, which is operated by the Texas Department of Transportation.
Three years ago, Vickers said he contacted state Sen. Ken Armbrister because he sits on the Senate’s committee for Homeland Security. Armbrister promised to help get a surveillance camera at the park, where Vickers said 50 to 100 illegal immigrants are coming out of the brush each night. After three years, the only progress is a pole to put the camera on.