by Arthur G. Uhl III, first vice president, Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association
If you’ve stayed up to date on national news in recent months you’ve likely seen and heard about the border crisis. Stories on the politics of border security and immigration, and even debate on whether a crisis exists are commonplace. Unfortunately, what you probably haven’t seen are the day-to-day challenges faced by ranchers and property owners in South Texas amid the surge in illegal border crossings.
Whatever your thoughts on the politics of border security and immigration, it is undeniable that a crisis exists for those men, women and families who must live and work amid the chaos.
Among those directly impacted are many members of the Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association who have devoted their lives to raising the beef our world needs. In recent years, these ranchers have faced hurricanes, floods, droughts, a catastrophic winter storm and an unprecedented pandemic. They have persevered, but now face a new level of threats from a flood of illegal border crossings.
As the number of illegal crossings continue to grow, so do personal safety concerns and property crimes.
Those entering the country illegally are regularly guided by human traffickers who work for violent cartels. These professional smugglers are often armed and have little regard for the immigrants they guide or the innocent property owners they may stumble upon as they move North from the border with Mexico.
With growing frequency, our members find themselves threatened by these traffickers. In fact, many will no longer venture onto their own property unarmed because of the threat posed by the increasingly brazen traffickers who trespass across their ranches.
There is also little refuge at home. Ranchers frequently return to homes, barns and storage buildings that have been burglarized. Vehicles are often stolen as well and used by smugglers to transport immigrants and illegal narcotics.
The roads are also increasingly dangerous. High-speed pursuits on rural roads are common as traffickers attempt to evade law enforcement. Too often the chases lead to accidents and injuries for immigrants, law enforcement officers and innocent drivers who are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Many of those pursuits also end in what law enforcement refer to as “bailouts.” Traffickers intentionally crash their vehicles through roadside fences before fleeing into the brush on foot. The downed fences allow livestock to escape, which then pose a deadly hazard to other drivers.
Ranchers in South Texas are spending untold hours and thousands of dollars to repair fences mowed down by fleeing traffickers. These same groups regularly cut fences — instead of climbing over them — which also allow livestock to escape and force regular repairs.
Litter is ever-present and must constantly be cleaned up by ranchers, otherwise it could be ingested by livestock and cause injury or death. Cattle producers also have the sad and unfortunate task of finding and reporting those immigrants who died crossing their property.
The unimaginable burdens placed on ranchers and property owners in South Texas are very real. Not only are these individuals robbed of their possessions, but also their security and peace of mind. Lives are at stake every day, and as the crisis continues to worsen, so will the peril for these residents.
Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association has asked Texas’ Congressional delegation and state leaders to act swiftly and provide all necessary resources for law enforcement to stem the tide of illegal border crossings.
The association’s officers have also instructed our government relations staff to work with policy makers at the state and federal level to secure whatever assistance can be made available to cattle producers and have asked the Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association Special Rangers — the association’s licensed peace officers — to respond to these property crimes and aid cattle producers in security planning.
I hope you will join us in urging Texas and U.S. officials to provide the resources necessary to protect the Texas cattle producers facing this crisis. There is a crisis occurring on Texas’ Southern border, and our ranchers and landowners need help.