While the discussion of the latest wave of illegal immigrants has focused mostly on women and unaccompanied children, Texas sheriffs and ranchers say they are seeing another side of the surge.
Illegal immigrants — often ushered across the Rio Grande river by coyotes — are busting through ranchers’ fences in one county at levels not seen in years, indicating that more than just children and women are coming into the U.S. illegally.
According to ABC Houston, in the first six months of the year in Hidalgo County, 30 miles north of the Rio Grande, ranchers in just one precinct have placed 47 calls about traffickers obliterating their fences.
“I promise you the number of incidents of ranch crossings is double or triple that,” Hidalgo County precinct Sgt. Aaron Moreno told the news station.
In the same precinct, 64 “bailouts” have been reported, according to ABC Houston. Bailouts occur when illegal immigrant passengers scatter from the vehicles transporting them after they crash or officers pull them over.
Hidalgo County rancher Fred Cappadona has observed a similar uptick in illegal traffic.
“The numbers are overwhelming,” he told ABC Houston, adding that, compared to last year, movement is “three times more aggressive this year.”
The recent spike of illegal immigrants — which the Obama administration has called “unprecedented” — has mostly been reported as a wave of unaccompanied children. The administration predicts that 90,000 will be apprehended this year — three times last year’s totals.
While the administration and lawmakers have called this a “humanitarian crisis,” ranchers like Cappadona and law enforcement officials working near the border have provided first-hand evidence that more than innocent children are coming into the U.S.
“They’re not being stopped at the river,” Cappadona told ABC Houston. “That’s the main problem. It’s government’s responsibility, not ours but we’re having to pay the expenses.”
“If the border patrol controlled them at the river, we wouldn’t have to call them here,” the rancher continued, adding “I am a taxpayer and I’m not getting my money’s worth.”
Cappadona’s and Sgt. Moreno’s observations were shared by at least some of the Texas sheriffs who gathered last month at their annual convention.
“The damage is constant,” Brooks County chief deputy Benny Martinez told reporters at the event.
“When you have to focus on the rush of undocumented immigrants coming through your county, what does that do to your staffing? Of course it kinda takes some of our staffing from being out on patrol,” Karnes County sheriff Dwayne Villaneuva warned. (RELATED: Texas Sheriffs Speak Out On Illegal Immigration)
Dealing with unaccompanied children and women with children leaves gaps in the border and allows more dangerous elements to enter the country, some lawmakers and U.S. border agents have claimed.
Texas attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott expressed that concern in a June letter to President Obama requesting more border help.
“With the Border Patrol’s focus shifted to this crisis, we have grave concerns that dangerous cartel activity, including narcotics smuggling and human trafficking, will go unchecked because Border Patrol resources are stretched too thin,” he wrote.