(The Center Square) – Since President Joe Biden took office and halted construction of the border wall, the number of illegal immigrants crossing into New Mexican border ranchers’ land to gain entry into the U.S. has skyrocketed, causing some ranchers to live in fear.
Ranchers along the border are reporting groups of up to 20 illegal immigrants crossing over onto their lands, armed with automatic weapons and drugs, according to New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association President Randell Major.
Border rancher Russel Johnson said these aren’t just the families and children shown by national media outlets.
“These are all late teens, early twenties, 30 year-old males primarily is what we’re seeing,” Johnson told The Center Square.
Major said it’s gotten to where ranchers along the border are now afraid to operate.
“The fear levels are back up where their ranch headquarters are because just even to go out to the barn to do chores and stuff, they don’t know if somebody’s waiting in the barn for them,” Major told The Center Square.
Major referred to the border crisis several years ago when a border rancher was murdered by an illegal immigrant, and another group of contract workers were kidnapped and their vehicle stolen.
In January, a 7-year-old girl was kidnapped by illegal immigrants from a ranch house, according to Johnson.
“To have your family, your kids down there, it’s very dangerous,” Major said. “It’s become very worrisome, and it kind of makes you wonder and can’t believe that you have to live that way in the United States of America, where you’re looking over your shoulder afraid that somebody’s going to sneak up behind you and kill somebody or whatever it might be, but that’s exactly what they’re living with.”
Besides the fear for safety, the groups of illegal immigrants are disrupting operations, Johnson said. With groups of 20 individuals crossing at a time, barbed-wire fences are quickly destroyed, leaving cattle to wander and sometimes joining other rancher’s herds creating disease problems, he said.
New Mexico is also experiencing a severe drought, making water a precious resource. Ranchers are finding their livestock water tanks broken into and drained by illegal immigrants crossing the desert, according to Johnson.
“In doing that, it runs our cattle off of water, which can cause stress-induced illnesses like pneumonia,” he said.
Major said one lawmaker, Congresswoman Yvette Herrell, R-New Mexico, has spent time on the border trying to garner attention for this issue, but more notice needs to be taken of this serious issue. Herrell has asked Biden to finish the border wall that was a major part of former President Donald Trump's immigration policy.
“But I just feel that it’s just turned into this big political thing,” Major said. “To be honest, we feel like it’s a Trump versus the new administration, so they’re going to do the opposite of whatever Trump did, and so, unfortunately, that’s the political game that’s going on, but meanwhile the citizens of America and the citizens of New Mexico are caught in the middle.”
What ranchers need is for the wall to be finished, Major said.
Johnson said there is a three-quarter mile gap in the wall along his ranch, but until politicians decide whether to finish it, they need more manpower to patrol the border.