Two Texas congressmen from rival parties say they have
joined forces behind the goal of compensating ranchers whose properties have
been damaged constantly by drug traffickers and unauthorized immigrants.
In a letter sent to the Government Accountability Office, U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, and Michael McCaul, R-Austin, have requested a study to quantify the damage, to find ways to minimize the damage, to identify the agency best equipped to handle the necessary work and to find a way to compensate ranchers -- whether through legislative or administrative action.
"We are trying to address an issue that is not talked about a lot, but it is a big concern for our residents," Cuellar said. "South Texas has now become the No. 1 crossing area in the nation for immigrants. Anyplace where you have a large number of crossings, you have property owners who have had their fences cut down, their gates destroyed during pursuits and bailouts, or their livestock become ill after eating litter, such as trash bags and other plastic items left behind by people trekking through.
"We have met with property owners for over a year to properly identify the problem and along with my good friend Michael McCaul and Susan Durham from the (South Texas Property Rights Association) we are now in the stage where we want to find possible solutions and take them in the right direction," Cuellar said.
Our members believe it is the federal government's responsibility to address this issue since border security is the federal government's duty and obligation, Durham said in a prepared statement.
Broken fencing and other damages to ranches is something that Benny Martinez hears about almost daily. Martinez, chief deputy at the Brooks County Sheriff's Office, is constantly working with local ranchers affected by illicit traffic. While not on the edge of the Rio Grande, Brooks County has a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint in Falfurrias considered the last obstacle for those seeking to make their way north. Because of the geographic location, Brooks County has been left out of many border security federal grants, Martinez said.
To circumvent the checkpoint, immigrants and drug smugglers will trek through the brush area, causing damage to the ranches' fencing that has an average cost of $2,000 to $2,500 to replace, he said.
"We have places where a 6-foot fence has been turned into a 1-foot fence because the owner just stopped fixing it after (it was bent down) so many times," Martinez said. "We welcome any support that the federal government can send our way."
(c)2013 The Monitor (McAllen, Texas)
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