Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Along Mexican Border, US Ranchers say they Live in Fear

Sunday, November 27, 2011 |

Despite government assurances that they're safe, they say the level of violence is rising

By Mark Potter
NBC News

FALFURRIAS, Texas — While walking along a dirt road bordering his property, a South Texas farmer complained about living in fear of Mexican traffickers smuggling drugs and illegal immigrants across his land. He would later ask his visitor not to reveal his identity, for his safety and that of his family.

"I'm a citizen of the United States. This is supposedly sovereign soil, but right now it's anybody's who happens to be crossing here," he said. "I'm a little nervous being here right now. Definitely don’t come down here after dark."

The farmer said a federal law enforcement agent told him to buy a bulletproof vest to use while working in his fields. Whenever he goes out to survey his agricultural operations, he always tells his office where he is headed, and he has purchased a high-powered rifle.

"One of the basic points of the federal government is to protect the people of this nation to secure the border, and they're not doing that," he complained.

The Obama administration and many local officials have said the U.S.-Mexican border is safer than ever and that reports of violence on the American side are wildly exaggerated. But the farmer scoffed at that argument. "I walk this soil every day and have since I was old enough to come out on my own," he said. "In this part of Texas, it is worse than it's ever been."

Moving families to safer ground
A report recently released by the Texas commissioner of agriculture said cross-border violence was escalating. "Fear and anxiety levels among Texas farmers and ranchers have grown enormously during the past two years," the report said, adding that some “have even abandoned their livelihoods to move their families to safer ground."

Retired U.S. Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who served as the U.S. drug czar during the Clinton administration and as an NBC News military analyst, is a co-author of the report. During a recent interview, McCaffrey said that while major cities along the Texas border are "pretty safe," the rural areas between towns are "largely unprotected, and across those areas the (Mexican) cartels are conducting massive movements of illegal drugs and other criminal activity."

Law enforcement agents say they are seeing more aggressive efforts by Mexican traffickers operating in the Rio Grande Valley. In South Texas alone, the traffickers smuggle hundreds of tons of drugs a year into the United States by floating them on rafts across the Rio Grande, then transporting them by car, truck or on foot — often across private land — into the United States.

The smuggling “clearly has intimidated U.S. citizen who don't believe they're safe on their own land in their own country," McCaffrey said.

Several Texas congressmen and sheriffs have condemned the report, saying its conclusions are overstated and politically driven. But McCaffrey claims the officials not facing facts.

"I think there is an element of denial," McCaffrey said. "Inside the beltway the senior law enforcement, I think, have fallen in line and said, no, that's right, the U.S. border is the safest place in America, which is errant nonsense."



Ranchers protecting themselves


Mike Vickers, a veterinarian and rancher, leads a group of Texas landowners concerned about Mexican drug and immigrant smugglers crossing their private property.

Veterinarian and rancher Mike Vickers heads the Texas Border Volunteers, a group of about 300 landowners and supporters who work closely with law enforcement officials to track drug and immigrant smugglers entering the U.S. from Mexico and crossing private land. His primary concern, he said, is the safety of farmers and ranchers who have been confronted by armed traffickers.

"A lot of them have been threatened not to call the Border Patrol or law enforcement if they see smuggling going on their property, otherwise they'll be killed or their family members may be killed," he said.

During a tour of his land and that of a neighbor, Vickers pointed out numerous hiking trails worn by smugglers and illegal immigrants from around the world. He also showed where many parts of the wire fence had been cut and pulled back.

"This is not done by wildlife," he said. "This is done by smugglers and more than likely drug smugglers that have heavy backpacks full of drugs so they can drag the backpack underneath and not have to throw it over the fence."

In order to prove their claims that thousands of smugglers and illegal immigrants are crossing private American land, the Texas Border Volunteers have erected hidden cameras and share the images with state and federal agents. Describing one of the pictures, Vickers said, "This individual's got at least 80, maybe 100 pounds on his back. This is probably marijuana with a canvas covering." Another black and white photograph showed a man hoisting a smaller load. "You know he's carrying at least 40 pounds of drugs in that backpack. We suspect cocaine."

Vickers said that since 2004, about 500 people, mostly illegal immigrants, have perished while on smuggling trips through private property in Brooks County, Texas, alone, where his ranch is located.

A war zone?


This fence on private land apparently was trampled by smugglers trying to get around a Border Patrol checkpoint in South Texas.

 
Todd Staples, the Texas agriculture commissioner and a candidate for lieutenant governor, argued that many leaders in Washington, D.C., continue to ignore the violence along the border. In a recent article he wrote, "A Webb County rancher checking his cattle is shot at and barely escapes with his life; the suspects are linked to drug cartels. Workers in a Hidalgo County sugarcane field are told by cartel members to stop harvesting the crop 'or else," because the sugarcane provides coverage for cartel coyotes smuggling drugs."

Vickers said he knows ranchers who have moved their families into nearby cities for their protection and have taken other safety measures. "Everyone is packing a weapon and carrying a cell phone with them. and they're crazy if they don't," he said. "This is happening on American soil; this is a war zone here, there's no question about it."

The use of the phrase "war zone" to describe the U.S. side of the border is controversial. The report to the agriculture commissioner states, "Living and conducting business in a Texas border county is tantamount to living in a war zone in which civil authorities, law enforcement agencies as well as citizens are under attack around the clock."

Democratic congressmen and some local officials say that conclusion is unfair. Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino was recently quoted by the Houston Chronicle as saying, "The border is not in chaos.” And the newspaper quoted Rep. Silvestre Reyes, a Democrat representing El Paso, as calling the claims "political rhetoric" meant to embarrass the Obama administration.

Among ranchers, farmers and law enforcement agents working at the ground level, however, there is considerable agreement that large-scale drug smuggling from Mexico into the United States has been increasing in recent years and that the traffickers are becoming more aggressive. For the farmer too afraid to be identified publicly, it creates a painful dilemma.

"I can't pick up and move this farm; we're tied to the land," he said. "This is the front door to our country. Help us stop it here."





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26 Borderland Beat Comments:

Anonymous said...

Why does our federal government care more about attacking a plant (med cannabis) than protecting our texans and their land...its true, these bastards are taking over and the feds act like its not happening. I hope the sheep, I meab people, wake up and vote for a candidate that will standup for our constitutional rights. Federal govt is a joke, each and every state can do a better job governing them selves...california would be out of debt if it werent for the feds. The fed govt is going to push the states to the fighting point where we push back and protect our selves...

Anonymous said...

Man,all i see on here is"this the USA,you fuck with us and we,ll light your ass up,fuckin traffickers,cant wait to kill them,we Texans and we got guns,this isn't Mexico"Whats the problem?I thought you gonna take care of business yourself,you got the guns,chill out and wait for them.As you say you got guns,protect yourself,i thought you were rubbing your hands and couldn't wait to kill them.So whats all the crying about?Invest in a new fully auto,c,mon man,we the USA,we not scared?"There is no one protecting us"Whats that all about?It will be like a new Vietnam,USA,USA,USA.Think John Wayne.

Anonymous said...

i would imagine it to be safe for the ranch owner. the border is probably already loaded with enough predator drones, fighter jets, and helicopters with night vision to make the smugglers jobs hard enough and the last thing they would want is to kill a ranch owner if they didn't have to. i wouldn't doubt it if they even watching it with some satellites as they pass along with all of Mexico/CA


~~~el spaceio~~

Anonymous said...

Rules of engagement need to change, when I see drug smugglers all in the Rio Grande, bundles of dope everywhere and 50 law officers standing around with their fingers in their ass,you have got to ask yourself who is running this show?? Shoot them, Hello what happened to THIS COUNTRY I repeat shoot them. Respect is earned Criminals are not kind gentile liberals. In WW2 Mexicans in the river were given 1 warning shot then killed. If the USA was serious about drugs,imigration or anything the Policy would reflect it, The US policy is SHIT. Ranchers would be safe, we would solve many problems.

Anonymous said...

Put the army on the border and shoot to kill.

Anonymous said...

I have to laugh at the comments of the Hidalgo sheriff and the congressman - both of them on the cartels' payrolls! Hypocrisy in the US is so thick you can cut it with a knife.

Anonymous said...

The exact sentiment of native americans and mexicans of spanish descent, in the 1800s here comes those european vermin crossing our borders ,not selling anything,just stealing land.narcos have partners on the other side get them first if u got the huevos. Narcos already have us exmilitary in their payrolls dumshits let alone gringo politicians. Ex u.s. Marines have already been captured in mexico working for afo,zetas y cds.y predict alo of them coming back from middle east will join them cause there aint no jobs, and narcos pay better.

Anonymous said...

Lol... Yal make me laugh ..yea we got guns but i bett half the pussies that comment here wont use them ... Yal the same people thst play call of duty .and think yal are soldiers all of a sudden ... If yal so bad .. vacation in mexico .. i bett half of yal wont cross that border without holding your moms hand .... N btw ..u.s. military isnt gonna go into mexico .. so stop thinking thats gonna happen .. dumbasses

Anonymous said...

Automatic defense cuts are coming and the military is going to have to come home and save money and train on the border...imagine a convoy of cartel suv's coming up two apache helicopters!?? Not to mentions scout snipers who love long lonely days waiting and watching. Doubt many ex-military will work with cartels as they would risk loosing their life-long benefits, then again, republicans and tea party people are trying to cut those. US will never legalize weed cause the right wing republican "family values" crowd won't let it happen.

Anonymous said...

9:36 another butthead hypocrisy fighter. Oh yes and all the hypocrisy is concentrated in the US - can't find it in Mexico or Canada. And of course it is so important to stamp out hypocrisy wherever we find it.

Is that all you get out of this article?

Anonymous said...

@6:23 Wy y'all must be frum texas. A reel texas gayambler yuu air. Yuu air willin' ta bett on everthang. Air yuu onn a those gud 'ol boys frum texas that seys y'all all the time?

Anonymous said...

What happened to the BB readers that had something to say? The ones that had a brain and used it? Like buela, lito, ardent, jesus, texcoco and a bunch of others whose names I can't recall.

God almighty, 90% of these comments are brain dead.

Anonymous said...

yes all the comments here are from brain dead people , example have the snipers kill them , lets seee shoot people that have t shrts that say narco?? have blackhawks blow them like in call of duty humm does that include people camping and hunting on deserted areas of texas?? or just mexican looking cars humm mexican looking carssssss or just mexicans
if you are going to comment on life in mexico at least have some ideas of what you are talking about pleaseeee

you are making this blog like the run of the mill blogs all ignoratn comments and nothing of value

Anonymous said...

I`m not a gun nut, but I`ve purchased an AR-15, a .380 Handgun,and n AK-47. I`m not looking to use them,heaven help me if I have too, but I am not going to be blind to the facts, just because the Media won`t report it. FM 755 is not safe to travel on after dark. It`s way worse than I even wanted to believe. Cartel members all around us and they are iotting more brazen every day. If you don`t punish the criminal, the first time you commit a crime is the hardest one. It gets easier after that, and usually escalates. I hope I don`t have to use these weapons on a human, but I won`t hesitate to save my family, property, vehicle, as per the Castle Law in Texas.

Anonymous said...

Yes it is American hypocrisy that is responsible for the entire mess. The biggest drug users in the world blaming their suppliers. The biggest crooks in the world (US LE and politicians) pointing the finger at everyone but themselves. The biggest arms dealers in the world pissing and moaning about the uses of the weaponry they supply. The US is a criminal nation to its very core.

Guero said...

@6:23
It is obvious that your brain lacks the skill to spell properly, and that your IQ is somewhere between that of a rock and a paper sack. Here in Texas we have a law called The Castle Doctrine which allows a property owner to take care of thugs himself. I have two signs posted on the gate into my property that read "We Don't Call 911", and I won't. I can dump a .40 clip into a 2" group at a pretty good distance and if I need something more substantial I have that at the ready as well. We also have the ability to carry a handgun in our vehicle as "an extension" of our property. I am not at all afraid to travel in Mexico and I have been all over the country from El Mezquital in Tamaulipas to Zihuataneho and many places in between. You might practice the words "do you want fries with that?" because that will likely be the pinnacle of your career my friend. Here in Texas we are allowed to have guns, we learn to hunt at an early age and being a good shot is something we take pride in. AK's may seem macho but they are not very accurate and you have to get pretty close to your target, that is not very smart. Give me a good ole boy with a bolt action .25 or.30 caliber and he can pop a target at 300 yards without anyone ever knowing he is there, that is smart. We do pretty well on the deer, in fact we shoot more of them than any other state. I'd say a deer is a much more wary target than some cabron in an SUV wearing alligator boots. Fact is the cops have less latitude in their actions than a property owner does to elimnate a threat on his own property.

Anonymous said...

Alright 11:14 get at them! Let them know we don't mind some beans with our venison.

Anonymous said...

I know a family that actually moved off their ranch on 755 due to the amount of illegals and smugglers driving through their property dang near 24/7. They built a gate out o 4 inch pipe with 2 inch thick steel footlong spikes on the gate. Still found vehicles crashed in it. Dug a trench on the other side of the fence. Found vehicles in it face first all the time. They have tons of photos of the "bailouts" on their road. Finally, after some threats by all they could assume were cartel members, they moved their family out of there. I guess any thing south of the Nueces is still considered Mexico in the eyes of Washington?

Anonymous said...

What is wrong with our politician are they on the take from the drug cartel I wouldnt be surprised if they were. they have to be raising all this money they campaign with from some where. These drug punks are triing to kill (are killing) our citizens, we are at war. Maybe our government needs to worry about our border a little more than the middle east but im sure they make more points by crying terroist than mexicans attacking our lands. America WAKE UP. WHO ARE THESE LIBERALS THAN KEEP CAMPAIGNING FOR THE MEXICAN IMIGRANTS TO KEEP OUR BORDERS SO UN PROTECTED FROM THE DRUG LORDS. THINK ABOUT IT.....

Anonymous said...

TEXAS and Arizona if the federal government keeps triing to give your land away (I AM MOVING TO ARIZONA IN A FEW MONTHS AND I PROMISE NO ONE WILL TAKE MY PROPERTY FROM ME WITHOUT A FIGHT.) to the mexican cartels then its time you go back to the good old days and start protecting your own lands GO TO WAR!!!!!!! Do these politicians even pay any attention to the national news. I have watched several shows about these mexican drug punks stating they have no problem killing people to make a buck. TAKE THEM OUT!!!!! THE PEOPLE THEY WANT TO KILL ARE AMERICAN CITIZENS AND THEY ARE NOT THAT IS TERROSISM. That person you call our president which says he doesnt think there is a problem at our borders either wants there to be more of problem or he has his head stuck in the desert sand. The United States has to start protecting its citizens and quit cottling these mexican illegals.

Anonymous said...

As a Army Vet living along the Texas/Mexican I can tell you that the border is chaos. Black Hawk helicopters are always patrolling the Mexican side of the border looking for smugglers before they cross the river. There have been instances of the chopper gunners cutting loose with their miniguns and killing the cartels right across the border. In the evenings with the setting sun it used to be the sound of a lonely coyote howling in the night. Now you hear the rattling of an AK-47 or the buuuuuuuuuuur of a chopper gunner. Several IR photos from drones have captured drug smugglers protecting a vehicle being loaded on the Texas side of the border. Whole families who have tried to leave the drug life have been killed on this side of the border. Much of the violence that occurs is hid from the media for the sole reason of not trying to scare the public. For all the people who agree with the border being a safe place, I welcome you to come down here and listen to the amount of rotor wash you can hear. You might even hear an AK rattling away.

SoTx Vet

Anonymous said...

I HAD TO MOVE OUT OF EL PASO TEXAS BECAUSE OF THE DRUG CRUDEL BUYING HOMES IN THERE AND DOING BUSINESS IN EL PASO. IT NOT A SAFE PLACE TO BE AND TRUE THE RANCHERS HAVE ALOT OF PROBLEMS IN THE BORDERS. I MOVED TO KENTUCKY FAR AWAY TO KEEP AWAY FROM TEXAS. MY STRESS LEVEL WENT DOWN AFTER I LEFT. SHAME US AMERICANS HAVE TO MOVE OUT OF TEXAS TO BE SAFE.

Anonymous said...

I ended up with fear of mexicans after I left a border town. Moved to east cost live around the amish . It is dangerous around the borders for americans. Wish our president would stop sending troops overseas and do something to protect our country.

Anonymous said...

It true you do hear helcopters overhead and gun shots near border towns. Your children are not even safe in there bedrooms. They steal the kids out of homes in phoenix arizona. The kidnap kids and teens in El Paso and girls for drug trade and sex .

Anonymous said...

We need the Military Reservist on the Border and protect the ranchers US citizens from the Mexicans crossing on their land.

Anonymous said...

I know it's going to sound strange, but there are places where homes have barbwire among other things. Maybe border states should relook at laws on man-trapping. Of course the feds doing like they did during the mob wars where they said "There is no Mafia. It's a myth!" while everyone in Chicago knew they were full of it.

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