Texas border farmers deal with collateral damage from migrant surge

Border Report Tour

Growers forced to deal with trespassing, lost crops and hungry migrants abandoned or abused by smugglers

TORNILLO, Texas (Border Report) – With some properties a few yards from the border wall, El Paso County farmers say they find themselves on the front lines of the ongoing migrant surge.

One pecan producer says his crop often gets lost in grooves made by migrants stepping on wet ground. Another has been awakened by barking dogs that chased a man up a tree. Others have had to render aid or call the Border Patrol as they find Central Americans sleeping inside idle irrigation ditches or sick from drinking filthy water.

The farmers say they are routinely drawn into gut-wrenching, emotional, personal dramas of people who come onto their lands after suffering abuse of abandonment by smugglers. Those situations, they say, can be averted if the Biden administration duly enforces current immigration law.

“One man showed up at my door and got on his knees to beg for a job,” a farmer, who asked that her name not be used, told Border Report on Friday. “He was kept in a crowded (safe house) in Mexico for a long time by the smugglers. He said all the women were raped, even some girls and boys. He was desperate.”

The El Paso County farmers on Friday shared their concerns with a handful of House members brought to their community by U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas. Gonzales represents more than 400 miles of the southern border and is co-sponsor of the Bipartisan Border Solutions Act, which calls for hiring more immigration judges and Border Patrol agents and creating large, regional processing centers.

“It was important for me to bring these House members to see the border and, beyond the photo op, for them to listen to the people who see (the migrant surge) and live it every day,” Gonzales said.

Most of the farmers who gathered at an El Paso Lower Valley farm expressed security concerns. Yes, they said, most of the migrants coming over are fleeing poverty and just want jobs, but a cartel smuggler or migrants with a criminal past can always come along with the crowd.

“Not everybody coming over is necessarily a good person, and it puts ourselves, our employees and our families in danger when we have to floodgates open,” said Shannon, who agreed to an on-camera interview on the condition that his last name not be mentioned.

Shannon and others told Border Report the wave of migration they have seen in the past six to eight months is the worst in decades. They called on the visiting House members to push for strict enforcement of U.S. immigration laws.

“The simplest thing to do is shut the border down” to illegal immigration, Shannon said, “and then address the immigration issue so the good people who want to come over here that are looking for a better life who just want to earn a daily living for themselves and their family can get over here.”

Gonzales says making available more work-based visas is part of a solution to unauthorized migration. But he says he believes the Biden administration is sending signals that make people think they will be able to stay in the country no matter how they get here, or that at least empower transnational criminal organizations to recruit single adults and families by selling them that dream.

“We have a lot of laws in the books that need to be enforced and part of that is taking Border Patrol agents out of the processing centers and back on the field,” he said. “If our border is unsecured, all kinds of things are going to come over. It’s not fair to anybody — to anyone who lives along the border. It’s not fair to America in general.”

Another El Paso County farmer agrees fairness should be a part America’s immigration system. He said he has a friend from South Africa that has spent $18,000 trying to legally immigrate to the United States.

“You have the people that are doing it legally, paying lots of money and they’re being forced to wait,” he said. Meantime, he notes others are being successful in coming over the border wall or just walking across stretches with no border wall.

One such 14-mile stretch lies just a few miles east of Tornillo, the farmers said.

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