A New Mexico border rancher is urging the government to build the wall after problems with illegal immigrants driving over his fence, cutting locks, and ramming gates on his property.
Russell Johnson, whose family has owned thousands of acres west of Columbus, New Mexico for more than a century, told KVIA he’s invited state and federal lawmakers to witness the destruction first hand but he’s not getting many visitors.
“You always live with a constant heightened awareness for your surroundings and what’s going on around you,” Johnson said. “You don’t know what’s lurking in the darkness or even in the daylight.”
The most recent episode came on June 28, when Border Patrol officials awakened his family around midnight because of detected smuggling activity. Johnson found a vehicle had driven over the three-string barbed wire fence, cut a Border Patrol lock on one of his gates, and rammed into it full force.
“They got spooked and make their run back to Mexico,” Johnson told the news site.
Each time illegal immigrants tear down his fence, Johnson risks losing cattle that can wander out and across the border to the abandoned village of Las Chepas.
“If I have a cow go into Mexico, that’s potentially $1,000 or $1,100 to Mexico,” he said. “The likelihood of us getting it back is next to none.”
On the other hand, the likelihood of more illegal immigrants mangling his property in an attempt to cross into the United States is at about 100 percent.
“The government should be taking care of and securing (the border) so we feel just as safe here as we would further north in Las Cruces or Santa Fe,” Johnson told KVIA.
“We shouldn’t have to move,” he said. “We shouldn’t have the fears that we have about this border.”
Johnson said he invited the governor, both of the state’s U.S. senators and other elected officials to come out for a tour to see the situation firsthand, but has been largely ignored. U.S. Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small is the only lawmaker to take him up on the offer.
“We have to recognize that including ranchers, like Mr. Johnson, in the discussion about border security is crucial to finding meaningful solutions,” the Las Cruces Democrat said in a prepared statement for KIVA. “Our system is overwhelmed, especially in the most rural areas where resources are stretched thin. While we may not always agree on the solutions, keeping our border secure means listening to shoes affected.”
Johnson told the Deming Headlight in February that illegal immigrants have caused all kinds of destruction at the family ranch over the decades, but the problems have been getting worse.
“It has always been a problem, but when we really started seeing the uptick with kind of activity was 2005 and 2006,” the 31-year-old said.
“We’ve had people break into our buildings. Fortunately, nobody has broken into our house, but other family members have had their houses broken into down here in the border.”
“We have had a lot of cattle theft issues in the past because a portion of our borders is still barbed wire fence so, we’ve had some people come across and steal some of our cattle,” Johnson said.
“We’ve had vehicles stolen. We’ve had instance where if they get lost or if the smuggler figures if that person can’t keep up, and they get dropped out of the group, they’ll set fire to pasture grass to try to signal for help,” he said. “They’ve cut through fencing that divide our pastures. They’ve torn up our floats and our water towers that we have for our cattle and have drained our water systems.”