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Crossing the Line: South Texas to D.C. — border is not safe
While the nation’s attention focuses on the recent increase in women and children from Central America illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, Texas landowners continue to contend with human smugglers of another variety. And the consensus of members of one group representing landowners is: The border is not safe.
“It takes a crisis to make a difference,” said Susan J. Kibbe. Formerly Susan Durham, the executive director of the South Texans’ Property Rights Association, said landowners, ranchers, and farmers living in South Texas have been trying to stress to lawmakers in Washington since the mid-1980s that the Texas border is not safe.
Kibbe stressed the difference between the undocumented children and mothers crossing the border versus other illegals who make the news -- via bailouts on private property.
The children and mothers turn themselves in to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials once in the United States.
But there is another side of the illegal crossings -- human trafficking. Human smugglers, also known as “coyotes,” are located on both sides of the U.S. border. Coyotes drop off illegals south of the border. After their human “shipment” crosses the border, another coyote picks them up to go farther into the United States. These have no intentions of being caught.
Landowners in South Texas deal with the effects -- property damage, trash, and sometimes bodies -- from this traffic. This has occurred even in Wilson and Karnes counties. See “Officials nab 34 illegal aliens,” June 18 Wilson County News.
“The dysfunctional system we have now has put the cartel in charge,” said Kibbe last year. “We have been seeing the consequences on our ranches for years. Now the cartels have extended their tentacles into every community in the United States.”
Kibbe provided data for bailouts and estimated property damage in South Texas since 2009. The numbers are underestimated, she said July 31. For example, 101 bailouts were reported in 2009 in 13 counties. In 2012, this number surged to 1,956, with an estimated $97,521 in damages. So far this year, 862 cases have been reported, and damages are already estimated at $85,235.
The most challenging issue landowners face today with illegals is the fear, lack of safety, and anxiety they live with daily on their own property, where some families have lived for generations.
Employees have been threatened. Some landowners will not speak about the issue, since they are being targeted by the cartels, Kibbe said.
The illegals live among us, and the smugglers are local people who are part of gangs and even work on ranches, Kibbe said.
Kibbe said landowners and agricultural producers must contend with threats made to those who irrigate their crops. Employees of sugar cane growers have been asked to leave. Crops are being damaged by illegals trampling the properties. Farmers are concerned for food safety, especially since the Texas Rio Grande Valley is renowned for its produce and contamination of the crops is possible.
Ranches are damaged by illegals crossing properties, including cut fences, gates left open leading to cattle herds being mingled, and damage to water sources.
Brooks County, home to many hunting leases, is being threatened, with hunting camps being broken into or trashed by illegals.
In transit, some of the people being smuggled die on private property. Kibbe provided the body count in Brooks County, which leads the state in the number of bodies found:
•2012, 129 bodies
•2014, 51 so far.
To help prevent deaths, Help Stations have been set up by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. This includes a 5-gallon water jug and a “beacon” migrants can use to get help. Despite the help stations, 90 percent of the calls for aid come from the migrants’ own cell phones, according to the South Texans’ Property Rights Association.
Landowners have united to ask legislators for immigration reform and protection from liability.
Currently, Kibbe said the South Texans’ Property Rights Association is “asking for more assistance from state and federal law enforcement and asking the congressional delegation to support the bipartisan legislation, the HUMANE Act.
For more information, visit wwwstpra.org.
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Partain for Congress CD15
August 26, 2014 9:45am
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Section A: General News Archives
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