Border county commissioner: Ranchers are scared to report drug trafficking crimes

· February 19, 2019  
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New Mexico border, with Border Patrol agent
John Moore | Getty Images

If ranchers in our own country are scared to report crimes, not of internal criminals, but of foreign invaders at our border, is that a national emergency? And if their properties are being used for drug smuggling, does that count as drugs coming in between ports of entry in the minds of the media? And if you live in a poorer county at the border in New Mexico, are you as much of a citizen as a resident of Maryland or Virginia?

In a wide-ranging conversation with Joel Edwards, one of the county commissioners in Hidalgo County, New Mexico, he expressed deep concern for his constituents in this hard-hit county. “One of my primary responsibilities is to try to see that the residents of my county can enjoy a solid quality life and they don’t have to live in fear for their lives,” said Edwards. “You know, they shouldn’t have to live in fear that somebody is going to steal their vehicle or their four-wheeler or their horses, just because they live on an international border.”

Edwards explained that the folks in Washington live near counties that are completely protected and have robust resources to deal with internal crime, yet his county is left in the lurch dealing with “sophisticated cartels” coming over an international border. And that is scaring his residents. “Some of them are afraid to even come forward because they live right there on the border,” said Edwards of the ranchers encountering drug traffickers dressed in paramilitary getup. “Some of my residents go back and forth across the border because they actually have some family on the other side of the border, and they fear retaliation from the cartel if they cooperate and [try] to do something about the border problem.”

As I’ve reported before, Hidalgo County has just four sheriff’s deputies for a county of several thousand square miles, with no law enforcement presence in the border ranch areas south of Highway 9. The county has money to add only two more deputies, a drop in the bucket for an area that size. “You know, we’re a poor county. The average income in this county is small, considerably small compared to the part of the country where the media lives,” said Edwards.

Perhaps that is why the media sees no emergency at the border. Hidalgo County alone has been forced to absorb roughly half of the more than 60 groups of 100-300 migrants at a time being smuggled through by the cartels since last October. While the cartels strain our Border Patrol with the health care and welfare of the migrants, they engage in their other criminal activity.

Edwards called the media’s assertion that drugs only come in at the points of entry “asinine” and invited anyone from the media to come on a tour with him and his rancher constituents.

“You know, we visited ranchers that actually showed us pictures of the drug trafficking and told us stories about it. The cartels have a lot of the latest technology; the people that are coming across, they have sophisticated communication equipment. They’re not just desperate migrants. These people are … up on technology, they’re up on weaponry. Their loads that they’re carrying are worth thousands and thousands of dollars. They are protecting it because that’s how they’re making their money.”

Edwards shared the following pictures from the trail cameras passed on to him by some of his rancher constituents:

After looking at these pictures, now understand the predicament in which these ranchers must live. They are at least one or two hours away from any civilization, with no cell phone reception. Given that there is no permanent federal, state, or county law enforcement presence to protect them, Edwards told me his ranchers are too scared to share their stories with the media. But he did direct me to a Facebook post of Kari Wade, a constituent in his county, who responded to those who don’t see any emergency at our border:

Isn’t this why we have a military? Why are our own citizens less worth protecting than citizens of foreign countries in the Middle East?

This is not even right at the border. Edwards tells me that anything south of Interstate 10 is within the drug trafficking corridor. That is roughly 70 miles into the state. Yet the state’s governor doesn’t even think there is a problem!

Many of the illegal aliens passing through are growing bolder and more belligerent. Tisha Green, who is the county manager appointed by Edwards and his two colleagues on the county commission, told me the ranchers have witnessed a disturbing change in the migrants’ attitudes, which is further concerning the ranchers. “When ranchers would encounter criminals on their property, in the past, they used to ask to use the rancher’s phone, ask for food, water, and/or transportation. Now they demand it, by stating you will give me a ride, you will give me food, and you will give me your phone.”

What about fencing? As I reported in my last article on Hidalgo County, Edwards warned that the fencing is so poor that the cartels even drive vehicles over the wired fencing and place ramps over the Normandy barriers. That “happens a lot” in his county.

What allows the cartels to tie down border agents, who are essentially the only law enforcement lifeline for the ranchers? The endless flow of the migrants and the caravans. Last week, El Paso Sector Border Patrol Agent Fidel Baca told Fox News that the large groups of migrants are not showing up specifically in this remote location “by coincidence.” It’s the criminal organizations taking advantage of the remoteness of the area to do their work.

Thus, as long as the magnet of catch-and-release continues, the cartels will have their strategic diversion to tie down the agents and endanger the local residents with their smuggling activity. Yesterday, Breitbart Texas posted leaked photos of the overcrowded conditions in the El Paso CBP detention center. But a large number of those migrants initially pass through Hidalgo County, New Mexico, which has much fewer resources and is being strained every day. David Whipple, the head of the seven-man EMS team in Lordsburg, the Hidalgo County seat, confirmed to me last week that the migrants are usually transferred to El Paso after about three days. Thus, everything you see in the large holding facility in El Paso begins as a colossal strain on a county of 5,000 residents.

This is important as the president considers his next steps following his declaration of an emergency at the border. While a border wall is effective, catch-and-release is the cause of the problem and something that can be ended using executive power. Moreover, we need the military to protect these residents as Border Patrol deals with the legal land mines of asylum processing. This is why we have a military. This is not about using military personnel for immigration processing, but to repel what is quite clearly a foreign invasion of paramilitary groups.

The media and politicians living in their gated communities could never relate to what Edwards deals with as a county official at our frontier, because to them, an emergency is if they only get three bars of signal on their phones one day.


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Author: Daniel Horowitz

Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.