- Despite President Donald Trump’s talk about crime and a “crisis” along the US-Mexico border, landowners in McAllen, Texas, say they feel safe on their properties.
- Their area, known as the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector, has the most Border Patrol arrests along the entire US-Mexico border.
- Residents told Business Insider they frequently saw people illegally crossing the border near their land but that many of them simply asked for water.
MCALLEN, TEXAS – For the Texans who live along the US-Mexico border in the Rio Grande Valley, the US’s busiest corridor for illegal immigration, the Central American migrants who cross their land every day are simply a part of daily life.
Contrary to President Donald Trump’s claims of a “crisis on the southern border” and “horrible crime” bred by “open borders,” residents in McAllen say they feel safe in their homes and don’t fear the immigrants they see on or near their properties.
The area has become the epicentre of the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration, including the “zero tolerance” policy of prosecuting all adults who cross the border illegally.
Several landowners who spoke with Business Insider said they frequently saw immigrants darting through their land. Sometimes the immigrants beg locals to call Border Patrol to rescue them; other times, they flee at the sight of the officers in their green uniforms.
“Actually here in this area, to me it’s always been very peaceful,” said one landowner who asked to go by only her first name, Ana. “No gang violence, no people crossing and trying to steal our stuff or whatever – nothing like that.”
Ana said her property had been in her family for generations. It used to belong to her grandmother, who she said would often take in desperate-looking immigrants and feed and clothe them.
“Growing up, definitely we would see illegals crossing by, but we’ve never encountered any dangerous situations with any of them,” she said.
But times have changed, she added. Nowadays, Ana fears that offering too much assistance to unauthorised immigrants could get her in trouble with the government.
So when she sees border crossers on her property who look thirsty and exhausted from their journey, she merely points them to the garden hose.
‘This is the way you’ll get across’
In recent years, Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, which includes McAllen, has had the most Border Patrol arrests of any section along the US-Mexico border.
In the 2017 fiscal year, the area accounted for a whopping 45% of all Border Patrol apprehensions.
One Texas landowner who declined to be identified told Business Insider he was aware of drug smuggling near the area but still never felt fearful.
Instead, he feels sorry for the immigrants he believes are often exploited by drug smugglers.
He can even recall seeing 6-foot-tall stacks of black bags on the corner of his property one morning, and he can only imagine what they contained. But he said he hoped the immigrants who hauled them to his property weren’t caught; otherwise, they’d receive far more than a simple misdemeanour for entering the country illegally.
“They want to get across and they’re told, ‘This is the way you’ll get across, if you do this,'” he said.
Another landowner, Chet Miller, who owns an alfalfa farm outside McAllen, says illegal crossing has been a constant fact of life along the border – but he has noticed fewer people now than he did several years ago.
“We had groups coming across the river that were over 100 in a group,” he said. “Like a herd, a whole herd of people. They would stand around, and as soon as they see us they’d wave and ask us to call Border Patrol. Because as long as they knew somebody here, they’d get to stay, or a court date.”
Like Ana, Miller said many of the people he encountered simply requested a drink of water. Summer highs in the area regularly soar past 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and the people have often been walking for days. Miller estimates that roughly one-quarter of the immigrants ask him for rides, which he declines.
Miller said he, too, felt safe on his property – even when he’s unarmed and encounters people too close to his home in the middle of the night.
“I’ll go outside at night without a gun, and get a guy by the collar of the shirt and say, ‘Come on,'” he said.
Michelle Mark contributed reporting from New York.
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