For more than two years, South Texas ranchers have been sounding the alarm about rising numbers of illegal immigrants from Central America who hike across their lands as they circumvent the Border Patrol checkpoints like the one on highway 281, south of Falfurrias. They told of people dying of thirst in the brush, fences being cut, and the occasional guy with hate in his eyes, like the one who a few weeks ago wrestled a gun from a Border Patrol agent nearby, only to have the gun jam as he tried to kill the agent.
The ranchers watched with disbelief and rising anger as then-Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano declared that the border was secure, sometimes adding the empty qualifier that it was "as secure as it has ever been." Now the surge in OTMs – illegal immigrants from countries other than Mexico – has made national news and led the Obama administration to declare a humanitarian crisis.
The Obama administration has focused public attention on the unaccompanied children coming north from Central America. But the ranchers have long felt abandoned by the administration.
"I think our government has been very lax on the whole thing," said Ronnie Osburn, who manages a hunting ranch south of the checkpoint where hundreds of holes have been cut in fences used to manage the deer and other wild animals that are hunted here.
"They thought it was an exaggeration," Osburn said. "And it wasn't an exaggeration from the beginning. People were telling the truth. They needed help and we were ignored. That's basically it. We were ignored down here."
Osburn doesn't hide his bitterness. He is particularly angry about the calm assurances provided by Janet Napolitano, who resigned from the Obama cabinet last year to become president of the University of California. "At some point in time she had to realize what was going on," he said. "And she reports to Obama. So there's where it got stonewalled."
Osburn said that while most of the trespassers are non-violent, there have been enough physical confrontations to raise the anxiety and the irritation caused by the constant intrusions and fence cutting. Like the problem he had last week at ranch.
"I was gone maybe 45 minutes, and when I got back there had been illegal aliens in the headquarters house. They obviously saw me coming before I saw them, and they ran out the door. But they had really trashed the house. They were cooking a big pan of bacon which they left on the burner with the fire just going full blast ... They just trashed the house for no reason. And this is the second time that's happened to that house in the last five months, or less – four months."