The surge at the border and its impact on ag

The surge at the border is dominating headlines right now. It has a direct and sometimes dangerous impact on agriculture. Immigrants use farms to cross into the U.S. illegally.

This is the U.S. Mexico border in Donna, Texas. The fence sits right on an agricultural field. There is even farmland on the other side of the fence. We spoke with Border Patrol about how common this is in the Rio Grande Valley.

According to Christian Alvarez, the Special Operations Supervisor, “The farms more out on the border--there’s a lot of farms out in the Rio Grande Valley that are right on the border. Smugglers usually take migrants through that area because they’ve tried to conceal themselves within the crops.”

Border Patrol says that some of the crops are perfect for those looking to avoid being seen.

“Sugarcane, orange orchards, lemon orchards, and they know that it’s harder for the air units in the areas, the helicopters, to detect them,” Alvarez states.

There are other challenges that Border Patrol face when trying to find migrants on different types of farmland.

“Our agents are out there trying to make the apprehensions, but they are also cognizant that they don’t want to damage the farmer’s crops,” he explains. “So, a lot of them will go through those areas because they know, usually it takes a little bit longer to circumvent, to go around instead of running right through because, again, we don’t want to damage the crops.”

The ranchers in south Texas know well to be vigilant. Now, a lot of people dream one day owning or living on a ranch and it is a true wonder of natural beauty. However, it is also a pathway for illegal immigrants.

Falfurrias, Texas rancher Dr. Mike Vickers says that these fences are destroyed in several locations as migrants are crossing through his ranch and others in his part of Texas.

“A truck loaded with fifteen or twenty people in the back, covered up with a tarpaulin, maybe a suburban with all the seats out. They can put up to twenty people in that suburban. They come up south of this checkpoint on U.S. 281, come across, and point the vehicle south like they’re headed back to the border, and everybody bails out and does over the fence, and tears the fence down,” according to Dr. Vickers.

He says that some ranchers have said that they feel endangered by the people crossing through, and some ranchers have been threatened by smugglers. Yet, he takes personal safety precautions.

“You know, we’ve learned to live with this. Fences cut, water sources compromised and destroyed, houses broken into, some houses even set on fire and burned down, and most recently we had a big brush fire just a few days ago that we felt was started by illegal alien traffickers, and it’s a big problem for us,” Dr. Vickers adds.

He knows well to expect more.