Hundreds of distraught ranchers and other citizens living near the increasingly dangerous U.S.-Mexico border met with elected officials in the small town of Animas, New Mexico, last week to share their horror stories of lawlessness and plead for proper border security. Despite bogus claims by politicians and the Obama administration about the southern border region allegedly being “secure,” those speaking at the summit blasted the “invasion” and said the security situation was spiraling out of control. It is time for serious action, local citizens said.
Smugglers and other criminals are pouring across the often undefended border, residents explained, jeopardizing their livelihoods and even their lives — not to mention national security. Some of the speakers had even lost loved ones in the lawlessness. And despite years of pleading with federal and state officials for help, residents, activists, and ranchers sounded exasperated, saying their pleas had gone unanswered so far. More boots on the ground are needed, locals said. At least one retired lawman suggested that sheriffs deputize citizens. Some attendees even called for deploying troops to the border.
Inspiring the meeting, according to attendees quoted in media reports, was the kidnapping of a local American ranch hand. The victim reportedly happened upon a caravan of drug runners from the other side of the border while working on a cattle ranch in New Mexico's “Bootheel” region along the border with Mexico. Tricia Elbrock, co-owner of the company that employs the kidnapping victim, was quoted in the Albuquerque Journal recounting what happened in December of last year.
“They kidnapped him, tied him up, threw all our tools out and fittings and loaded our company vehicle with all the drugs,” Elbrock explained. “They waited 'til dark to leave the ranch. They needed him to help guide them through to the highway.... This is still pretty raw. We got him back safe. They did rough him up, but we got him back. It’s a mess. I don’t know what to tell you. We have got to have help down here.” The FBI is investigating.
At the meeting, the wife and son of Robert Krentz, a prominent Arizona rancher murdered by a suspected illegal border crosser on his own property, also spoke out. “Fifteen-hundred people have been killed by illegal immigrants since Rob was killed,” Krentz's widow Sue was quoted as saying in media reports. “My message is we need to secure the border. We don't need to create new laws, we need to enforce the ones we have.... We are now witnessing brutal mob behavior and many have no intent to assimilate into the community.”
So far, the government has ignored the desperate pleas for help. “When we asked for better security on the border, we were told security is not to be expected,” Sue continued. “Families on the border — our lives are expendable.” She also displayed a T-shirt after the meeting that was covered with the names and dates of Americans killed by illegal immigrants. “Let's never have more names on a Stolen Lives Quilt or the back of a T-shirt,” she was quoted as saying. “Stop this invasion!”
Robert Krentz, Sue's husband, was murdered in March of 2010 after ranching on the Krentz ranch since 1977. The family had been ranching in the area since the 19th century, according to reports. He was shot and killed after going out and reporting having seen an immigrant in need of assistance — a common occurrence in the area. While law enforcement initially suspected an illegal immigrant of the slaying, investigations later suggested a smuggler could have been responsible.
Frank Krentz, the murder victim's son, told attendees at the meeting that the family used to help out immigrants in trouble on their ranch. “We approached them as Christians, even after we had our house broken into, our vehicles and things stolen, our waterline broken,” the younger Krentz was quoted as saying by Arizona Range News. “But after losing my father, all that has changed. We don't put ourselves in situations where we risk getting hurt.”
“This is a problem that needs more attention than what is given to it,” Frank also said.
Others speaking out at the townhall-style meeting included fellow ranchers who warned of similar problems and called for more Border Patrol agents to be placed along the border, where in the area the agents are often stationed dozens of miles from the border. One speaker also asked that ranchers and residents be notified when there are incidents in their area, because it exposes their homes to danger when criminals are fleeing to elude capture. Also sounding the alarm was a veterinarian, who warned about the health implications for livestock, the economy, and even humans of not being able to properly test people coming across the border for diseases.
A video that was played highlighted some of the numbers involved, underscoring the enormity of the problem. According to the video, more than 1.5 million pounds of marijuana and cocaine were seized by the U.S. Border Patrol in 2015 in the area. That same year, more than 330,000 Mexican citizens and almost 150,000 “other than Mexicans” were apprehended. That includes more than a few coming from nations known for major problems with terrorism, tyranny, and anti-American hatred.
The meeting, which took place in Animas less than 50 miles away from the border, featured the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association. More than 500 people attended, including local, state, and federal officials, according to media reports. The main goal was to get elected officials to pay attention to the situation, realize the urgency of doing something, and taking serious action, including by putting more agents on the border.
“The folks down there have never gotten any relief from illegal crossings,” New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association Executive Director Caren Cowan was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. “And things have ramped up. These people are desperate. They are absolutely desperate.” Previous cries for help and meetings have not resulted in assistance. “We have had countless meetings with government agencies over the years, and I say this with all due respect, all we hear about is what they are trying to do and nothing gets done,” Cowan added.
Law-enforcement advocate and Homeland Security expert Andy Ramirez, a border-security expert who has testified on the issue before Congress, noted that the problems discussed at the latest meeting are nothing new. “There is no real change from a decade ago when the Bootheel [region of New Mexico] was overrun and Gov. [Bill] Richardson had to call out the National Guard,” he said. “Problem is you have corruption and that was always a weak border zone as I testified back in the day. But this is how it has been under successive administrations.”
He also said the problem originated in Washington, D.C., far from those affected most by it. “Who is most responsible for putting the civilians through this? David Aguilar who, as then-chief of the Border Patrol and later Acting CBP Commissioner before retiring, ultimately destroyed the Border Patrol,” Ramirez added. “Agents put their lives on the line but continue to get no help from DC. Who suffers? Civilians, especially along that line of death and corruption.”
Other experts echoed those concerns, telling The New American that meeting attendees supported the Border Patrol and realized the problems were coming from on high. “One thing that stood out at the meeting was how the people supported the rank and file Border Patrol officers,” said Rick Dalton, vice president of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), who spoke at the meeting. “These ranchers and farmers know that it's the administration that handcuffs these brave and good public servants, basically guaranteeing failure in the job of securing the border.”
Dalton, a retired lawman, also emphasized that border sheriffs have the authority to enforce immigration laws, “and of course the criminal laws that apply to the activities of the cartels and human smugglers.” He urged the audience at the meeting to pressure their elected sheriffs to help out. “Because of the distances that must be covered, law enforcement help is often an hour or more away,” he added. “Sheriffs can deputize some of the people, giving them the authority to make arrests, though this can be a very dangerous situation, with the way the illegals are armed and equipped.”
“I also urged the people to vet their sheriffs and make sure to elect Constitutional ones,” Dalton explained.
Despite claims from politicians in Washington, D.C., it is clear that the border is nowhere close to what a reasonable person would describe as “secure.” That is by design, of course. But the people suffering on the front lines of that are only the first to be victimized. If Congress does not get serious about demanding the enforcement of federal laws on border security, all of America will face the consequences, too. It is time to restore law and order on the border.
Photo of U.S.-Mexico border fence in New Mexico