Texas Ranchers Dealing With Armed Smugglers on Land
McALLEN, Texas—Two heavily armed suspected smugglers drive down a dirt road to hand their cargo of illegal aliens over to the next vehicle. One, the front passenger, is filming the bumpy drive with one hand, while pointing an AR-15 with a drum magazine out the windshield.
They’re speaking Spanish, talking about how much farther to go. At one stage, the driver communicates over a radio to say, “I’m there, I’m there, hold on.”
Suddenly the vehicle arrives at a gate, where a pickup truck is waiting on the other side, and the driver and passenger yell to their cargo, “All of you, all, all, all, run, run,” along with a lot of cursing. The backseat passengers jump out and run to the waiting vehicle.
The incident occurred in Jim Hogg County, Texas, about 70 miles north of the U.S.–Mexico border.
Landowners and ranchers dozens of miles north of the border have long dealt with illegal aliens traversing their land as they try to evade Border Patrol highway checkpoints and law enforcement. They commonly leave gates open, which mixes stock; destroy fences and gates; light fires; break into properties; and steal property.
But today’s human smugglers and illegal aliens evading capture are different, said Susan Kibbe, executive director of the South Texas Property Rights Association. The smugglers are armed, and the illegal aliens are often convicted criminals.
“It’s very disturbing when you have smugglers that have a connection with the cartels, on U.S. soil carrying high-powered, semi-automatic rifles,” Kibbe told The Epoch Times. She obtained the video from law enforcement after the smugglers posted it on Tik Tok.
Federal and local law enforcement are advising landowners to carry firearms on their own property, she said.
“These [smugglers] have become a lot more militant,” said Scott Frazier, Texas Farm Bureau board member, during a roundtable with GOP congress members on April 7. “You’re kind of scared of them. You’re kind of scared to be out on these ranches by yourself nowadays. Definitely scared to have your family here.”
The Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol sector in south Texas is the busiest in the country for illegal crossings. Since Oct. 1, 2020, agents in the sector have arrested 1,625 criminal aliens—almost four times the number during the same time period in the previous year.
“These criminal aliens were convicted here in the United States for crimes other than immigration, ranging from murder, sexual crimes, assault, and narcotics trafficking,” according to a statement from the Rio Grande border sector.
Currently, more than 1,000 illegal aliens are evading capture by Border Patrol each day along the border, and many will end up traversing private ranchlands to get further into the interior of the United States.
Kibbe said the South Texas Property Rights Association was formed in 2006 in response to border security issues. The group advocates for property owners to be able to enjoy and profit off their land.
She said problems with illegal aliens and smuggling have always existed, but “not to this extent.”
“There’s areas of Texas that have never experienced this before—like in the Del Rio Border Patrol sector. They’re getting overrun, and they don’t have the infrastructure that the Rio Grande Valley sector has,” she said.
“It’s a massive increase, and it pretty much aligns with the election and then the inauguration.”
Kibbe’s association is advocating for a return to Trump-era policies such as “Remain in Mexico,” which held illegal immigrants in Mexico while their case was adjudicated. President Joe Biden halted the policy and reverted to “catch-and-release,” which allows illegal immigrants to live and work in the United States until their immigration case is heard, often years in the future.
Warning to Parents
The small town of Cotulla, 70 miles north of Laredo on I-35 toward San Antonio, is being affected so much by illegal alien smuggling that the local school district sent a letter to warn parents.
The letter warns parents and guardians, “Please be watchful of your children as they are playing outside, walking home from school, or generally out of the house.”
The April 1 letter is signed by Cotulla Independent School District superintendent Jack Seals and La Salle County Sheriff Anthony Zertuche.
“Both our communities and the rural areas of the county have experienced a great increase in law enforcement chases and ‘bailouts,'” the letter reads.
Bailouts happen when law enforcement attempts to stop a vehicle that is transporting illegal aliens, but the driver stops and the passengers scatter before they can be detained.
Zertuche said his deputies have been responding to eight to 10 car chases per day in the county, a “big increase” over the past. “These chases sometimes end in bailouts inside the city limits,” the letter reads. “The Sheriff’s office has been on top of these and are apprehending all of those trying to flee after bailing out.”
The letter says the sheriff’s office has increased patrols around the schools, but advises parents to lock vehicles and property.