Illegal immigrants have started fires on the Texas ranch and twice tried to break into the house where she and her husband live with three young daughters, Allison Anderson said.
In another incident, authorities’ pursuit of unlawful crossers at the U.S.-Mexico border came to a stop on her family’s property, she said.
“I was outside feeding our livestock with our daughters when the helicopter and high-speed chase ended on our property,” Anderson said during a town hall meeting June 4 at Grace Church in Del Rio, Texas. “We had to run back to our house. I had to get my pistol.”
“I’ve had people try to break into my house while I was home with a newborn twice, not just once, twice,” Anderson said, adding: “I’m tired of feeling unsafe on my own property.”
At the same town hall attended by several hundred area residents, another woman said that one of her relatives—a hotel housekeeper—was raped at work by an illegal immigrant.
In another incident, she said, the son of a co-worker was threatened at knifepoint by a group of illegal immigrants.
“I mean it when I say stop them from coming over here. Uncuff our agents,” the woman said, referring to Border Patrol agents. “Let them do their job. If they can’t do it for the federal government, let the state of Texas hire them and turn them loose.”
The woman didn’t give her name, but her impassioned speech prompted applause.
She and other speakers from the audience addressed a panel of immigration policy experts in a forum sponsored by the Border Security Coalition, a project of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
‘Out of Control’
Residents of the border town of Del Rio, the seat of Val Verde County, say it has been overwhelmed by the crisis at the southern border.
Border Patrol agents have arrested almost 100,000 illegal immigrants so far this year in the county, which, including Del Rio, has fewer than 50,000 residents. The county shares 110 miles of border with Mexico.
Less than a week after the town hall meeting, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott traveled to Del Rio to hold a border security summit Thursday with law enforcement officials and to pledge that the state will build a wall at the border.
“I will announce next week the plan for the state of Texas to begin building the border wall in the state of Texas,” Abbott said at Del Rio Civic Center.
The Republican governor also announced that he will include $1 billion for border security in the state budget and establish a task force on border and homeland security.
Del Rio and its surroundings are besieged by illegal immigrants as the result of changing winds from Washington, D.C.
Local officials say federal prosecutors under the Biden administration, when given the choice, decline to bring charges against repeat offenders, including human smugglers.
Illegal immigrants cross the Rio Grande River from Mexico, often at great peril, to reach America.
As of late May, nine drowning deaths had been reported in the Rio Grande since Jan. 18. That compares with three drownings for all of 2020.
Crossers have included a one-legged man, persons in wheelchairs, and the elderly—as well as doctors, lawyers, and engineers, county Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez says.
Residents of this Democrat-dominated area understand where the blame lies, says former U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, who attended the Del Rio town hall with the Border Security Coalition that sponsored the event.
“Clearly they are concerned that the border is out of control and they felt that the crisis is caused by the current administration,” Smith told The Daily Signal in a phone interview Thursday, referring to those who spoke. “They told us that directly. We got the message, and we agree with that message.”
‘Quit Encouraging This Stuff’
During the town hall, Lee Weathersby, a former member of the Del Rio City Council, said he has seen illegal border crossings since he was 12 years old. The Texas governor is trying to do his job, Weathersby said.
“The policy you need to make [is] you need to tell the president to quit encouraging this stuff, to [not] tell our Border Patrol agents, ‘Don’t do anything. We’re going to fire you, we’re going to defund you,’” Weathersby said during the town hall, according to a press release from the Texas Public Policy Foundation. “Greg Abbott didn’t open the border, Biden did.”
A video of the town hall, which lasts two and a half hours, is available here from the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
Since taking office Jan. 20, President Joe Biden has rolled back the border policies of the Trump administration, halting deportations, stopping construction of the border wall, and ending the “Remain in Mexico” policy for those seeking asylum.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection told The Daily Signal that the Border Patrol will continue to work closely with local jurisdictions. In an email Friday, a spokesperson said:
USBP [the Border Patrol] continues to leverage our longstanding relationships with state and local law enforcement, including deconflicting operations in the border region and responding to call-outs from other law enforcement agencies. CBP [Customs and Border Protection] defers to the state of Texas to speak to any steps they are taking to increase their enforcement posture.
In late May, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas heralded Biden’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2022, which he said includes over $1 billion in border technology and infrastructure, including modernization of ports of entry.
Mayorkas said the spending would help stop human smuggling and improve care of illegal immigrants.
“The president’s proposed budget will invest in our broad mission set, including preventing terrorism; keeping our borders secure; repairing our broken immigration system; improving cybersecurity; safeguarding critical infrastructure; and strengthening national preparedness and resilience,” Mayorkas said in a written statement.
Several hundred area residents showed up the town hall meeting sponsored by the Border Security Coalition, which brings together conservative leaders and immigration policy experts and includes representatives of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, The Heritage Foundation, and America First Policy Institute, a group started by former Trump administration officials.
‘Terrified of Retribution’
John Zadrozny, director of the Center for Homeland Security and Immigration at the America First Policy Institute, who attended the town hall, says he suspects that Mayorkas is pulling back Border Patrol agents.
“We did talk to the community, and I personally spoke with family members of active-duty Border Patrol who live in and around Del Rio,” Zadrozny told The Daily Signal in an interview Thursday.
“It’s pretty clear they are being prevented from doing their jobs and they’re unhappy about it, but they are also terrified of retribution if they speak up,” he said.
Former U.S. Rep. John Hostettler, an Indiana Republican who served as chairman of a House subcommittee on immigration and border security, was among the visiting members of the Border Security Coalition.
“We’re here in Del Rio because of the unprecedented situation that’s happening here, and we’ve got to learn more about why that’s happening,” Hostettler said in a written statement. “We understand that this is an issue happening at the border that will impact the entire union of the United States.”
Hostettler currently is vice president for federal affairs at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank.
“While policy needs to be enacted in [the state capital of] Austin to allay the situation here, ultimately in Washington, D.C., policy has to be put in place likewise for the federal government to meet its constitutional obligations,” Hostettler said.
One attendee at the town hall noted that the federal government can ship illegal immigrants all across the country and that is legal, but if he did the same, he would be subject to arrest.
The members of the Border Security Coalition toured the Del Rio sector in late May, holding the town hall, meeting with public officials, and talking to law enforcement, residents affected by the massive rush of illegal border crossers, and nonprofits that assist illegal immigrants.
‘This Is Their Home’
The group included Mike Howell, senior adviser for government relations at The Heritage Foundation, who gathered much of the related information used in this report. Heritage is the parent organization of The Daily Signal.
“It felt like coming on to the crime scene of a home invasion, where the homeowners knew the robbers were coming back,” Howell told The Daily Signal.
He said he observed anger and frustration in the Del Rio community, which he described as mixed race, working class, and as “Tex-Mex as it comes.”
“Most felt the solution was easy and were furious that Washington wasn’t doing anything about it,” Howell said, adding: “This is their home. Many people have been here for generations. They have never seen something like this before.”
Area residents also are angry with some media outlets, he said.
“While Fox News was covering, CNN and MSNBC were not,” Howell said of the major cable networks. “These people realize that the people in control don’t care what Fox News says. They want the media to fairly cover.”
Overwhelmed Law Enforcement
Val Verde County residents are scared because of the unprecedented border situation, Martinez, the sheriff, told the visitors from the Border Security Coalition.
Martinez, a Democrat, told them that the Biden administration has welcomed illegal immigrants into the country and left border communities on their own. The administration isn’t engaged in the problem, the sheriff said.
Authorities have seen a major increase in the number of illegal immigrants from Haiti, Venezuela, and African countries who managed to get into Mexico and cross the border into Val Verde County, Martinez told Howell and the others.
Most illegal immigrants want to be caught in order to make an asylum claim, the sheriff said. Border crossers from Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, and El Salvador generally are less likely to want to be caught, he said, according to Howell.
The county jail has only 170 beds, Martinez said, and that capacity is reduced in separating members of rival gangs, as well as men and women. When no capacity exists to house lawbreakers, more repeat offenses occur, the sheriff told the delegation from the Border Security Coalition.
Local law enforcement struggles with manpower and resources, while drug cartels make about $25 million a week from smuggling, Martinez said. And, he told the visitors, human smuggling distracts authorities from stopping the drug running.
“Law enforcement feels they are not being given the resources to cope with the crisis the current administration has caused,” Smith, the former Texas congressman, told The Daily Signal.
Drug cartels frequently extort illegal immigrants for more money once they are in the United States, threatening family members and forcing them deeply into debt, Martinez told members of the Border Security Coalition.
Many adults who cross the border illegally claim to be under age 18 to obtain unaccompanied minor status, the sheriff said.
For its part, the Border Patrol has been so overwhelmed that it has sent groups of illegal border crossers to bus stations and to local nongovernmental organizations—in at least one case, more than 300 people, the sheriff said.
These so-called NGOs have coordinated flights that send the illegal immigrants to other states.
‘They Are Going to Disappear’
The Trump administration’s Remain in Mexico policy, requiring asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases are adjudicated, had “turned off illegal immigration like a light swtich,” former Border Patrol agent John Edmondson said.
“We told the White House this would happen,” Edmondson said of the border surge in a meeting with members of the Border Security Coalition, Howell recalled.
Edmondson is also a former vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, the union that represents agents.
He said the Border Patrol, part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, is issuing Notices to Report to illegal immigrants, instead of the traditional Notice to Appear for a hearing in immigration court.
The Notice to Report tells an individual to report to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, another agency within the Department of Homeland Security.
The new forms aren’t just a procedural matter, America First Policy Institute’s Zadrozny said.
“The Biden administration seems to be trying to have it both ways. They want to make it look like they are following the law, but they don’t actually want to follow the law,” Zadrozny told The Daily Signal.
“If they are handing illegal aliens any form that doesn’t direct them to appear in an immigration court to have their asylum claim heard, they aren’t following the law,” Zadrozny said. “And we’ll never see those people again. They are going to disappear.”
Manny Rodriguez, who left the Border Patrol after 23 years, said the situation is worse than he has seen before. At no point in his career, Rodriguez said, did he see 250 illegal immigrants at a bus station waiting to go somewhere else in the U.S.
Rodriguez, who also met with the Border Security Coalition, said car chases are common. When Donald Trump came into office in 2017, he said, apprehensions of illegal immigrants seemingly dropped overnight. With Biden, they seemed to go up overnight.
What a Border NGO Does
A nongovernmental organization called the Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition processed more than 1,000 illegal immigrants for airline flights or buses to other areas of the United States over three days.
The NGO also provides food, facilities for showers, and bus tickets for illegal immigrants, Tiffany Burrow, who heads the group, told the visitors with the Border Security Coalition.
Over a 10-day period, these immigrants traveled from Texas to Florida, Indiana, New York, Tennessee, and Utah, Burrow said.
Burrow told the delegation that it is rare for illegal immigrants not to be able to afford bus or plane tickets, Howell recalled.
She said faith-based groups such as the Salvation Army and the United Methodist Committee on Relief assist her organization.
Customs and Border Protection gives paperwork to the illegal immigrants so that they can board airliners if they lack a passport, Burrow said.
At the airport, Heritage’s Howell said, he noticed that some illegal immigrants seemed well dressed, some wearing pro sports jerseys and others with Beats by Dre headphones and Jordan brand gear. At least several carried smartphones.
Many of those who book transport to other American towns are from Venezuela, Haiti, and New Guinea, Burrow told the delegation. Illegal immigrants from African countries often go to Brazil first.
The journey to the U.S.-Mexico border is fierce, Burrow said, with some children raped by smugglers and others attacked by wild animals.
Although the sheriff’s office says it has difficulty staying in touch with Biden administration officials, Burrow said her NGO has been in constant contact with the Border Patrol.
Burrow has a different perspective from many Val Verde County officials, primarily calling for faster provision of work permits to illegal immigrants. She told the visiting group that the increase in illegal border crossers aligns with the transition from the Trump administration to the Biden administration.
Visiting Burrow’s NGO, the members of the Border Security Coalition saw that each illegal border crosser had a manila envelope with his or her name on it. At Del Rio International Airport, Howell and others saw the envelopes being held by illegal immigrants.
The visitors observed ticketing while going through the Transportation Security Administration’s checkpoint, Howell said, and noticed that one illegal immigrant had Ugandan identification but no passport. The TSA officer spent several minutes looking over the paperwork.
Border Patrol ‘Just Gone’
Val Verde County rancher Laura Allen hosted Border Security Coalition members at her property overlooking the U.S.-Mexico border.
One of Allen’s ranch hands told them that someone broke into a cabin there, Howell said.
Allen took the group to a hill where Border Patrol agents used to watch for illegal crossings. However, she said, they no longer use the area because agents don’t have the manpower.
She has seen many drug runners move across her property in camouflage, Allen told the visitors.
At night, it’s easy to see from the hill as boats bring in illegal immigrants.
It was difficult, however, to spot Border Patrol agents in the area, American First Policy Institute’s Zadrozny said.
“We didn’t see a single active-duty Border Patrol agent or vehicle the entire time we were in Del Rio. Not one,” Zadrozny told The Daily Signal.
“We also know from talking to residents that they haven’t seen the Border Patrol in key spots where they used to be,” he said. “They’re just gone.”
The Biden administration isn’t being honest with the public, Val Verde County Judge Lewis Owen argues.
“The people that are in charge, when they say it is not a crisis, as far as I’m concerned they are liars,” Owens, also a Democrat, said in a Facebook video for constituents posted May 31.
Responding to the mass entry of illegal immigrants, Owens said, will cost the county $450,000 before the end of the fiscal year—money that the county doesn’t have budgeted.
“We’ve hit a wall. The gates are open. And I will tell you that you are fixing to see more and more individuals that are immigrants on our streets,” Owens says in the video, adding:
You need to make phone calls, you need to scream, you need to holler, unless you think it’s a good thing, [and] I have not met anyone in Del Rio, Texas, that thinks it’s a good thing that we have all these people released on our streets.
Have an opinion about this article? To sound off, please email [email protected] and we’ll consider publishing your edited remarks in our regular “We Hear You” feature. Remember to include the URL or headline of the article plus your name and town and/or state.