Living Under Surveillance at the Border – for What?

As a fourth-generation Arizona rancher I have a strong attachment to the land my great grandfather homesteaded back in 1896. But ever since the US government built the border fence and sent thousands of Border Patrol agents to the Southwest, my property rights are violated every day.

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Our ranch has 14,000 acres of cattle land that stretches some ten miles along the U.S.-Mexico border. When I was a kid the border wasn't a big deal. The U.S. and Mexican ranchers on either side would help each other out. Then in the 1990's the Border Patrol showed up to close down the border, and ever since that's dominated my livelihood and my life.

At first I wanted to cooperate with the Border Patrol. Then the agents started racing their vehicles through my property, busting through our fences, tearing up roads, and running down cattle. When other ranchers and I met with border officials in Tucson to explain the problem, they refused to pay for the damages.

I've come to realize that the Border Patrol simply has no respect or understanding for our way of life here at the border. I spend most of the day mending fences they've damaged, and every time one of their vehicles hits one of my animals, I have to absorb the cost. My cattle are worth up to $1,800 a head, and I've lost eight of them. All the ranchers around here have the same problem.

I've also discovered that the Border Patrol doesn't have to respect our constitutional right of private property, something this country was built on. There's a federal rule that within 25 miles of the border US agents have the authority to come onto anyone's land, without permission, whenever they want. That's what they do, and I can't stop them.

It used to be that our dogs could roam freely. They have always been our security system. But when the dogs started going after Border Patrol agents who set foot on our property, the agents threatened to shoot them. So I had to build a fence to keep my dogs penned up.

That's just one way life here has changed.

We also live under constant surveillance. On my property alone, there's about $40 million worth of high-tech surveillance equipment Border Patrol has installed, including three 80-foot-tall surveillance cameras equipped with infrared night vision. They're supposed to be there to track illegal border traffic, yet one of them is pointed right at our house, watching our every move. My wife finally decided we had to plant trees around our windows to try to protect our privacy. There's also at least 200 ground sensors buried on our land right now, and the Border Patrol hasn't asked for permission to put any of them there. They're effectively taking your property without actually taking it, and they don't care if that makes you angry.

When the Border Patrol's air unit started coming with low-flying helicopters to chase illegal border traffic, I realized that the days of living with the peace and quiet we once had on the ranch were gone. The helicopters buzz over our house and scare the cattle and horses into running through fences. No matter how many times we talk to Border Patrol and explain that cows and horses don't get along very well with helicopters, they don't seem to care. It's like living in a military zone.

I believe we have to protect our borders, but not the way the government is doing it and not at hugely wasteful cost to the American public. We already have 450 Border Patrol agents right here in the Naco area. At their district headquarters down the road, there's 200 state-of-the-art patrol vehicles sitting there idle every day. Now Congress is talking about adding 20,000 more agents and spending an additional $46 billion on Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the agency that oversees Border Patrol. I consider that a waste of taxpayer money. We do need to solve the immigration problem, not by offering citizenship but by giving people who want to come to this country to work a way to do that legally.

I'm proud to be an American, and I believe this is the best country in the world. I never thought I would have to publicly criticize our government's policies. But after more than 20 years of experiencing the Border Patrol's arrogance and disrespect, my family and other ranchers have had enough. I want the rest of the country to know the reality that we're living here on the border: a daily violation of our constitutional rights.

Read more about Border Communities Under Siege.

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Anonymous

This is a shame. They are hurting America! How loud is the voice of a single farmer? Not loud enough for them to care.

Douglas Bischof

It is very fortunate for you and your family that your ancestors had a path to U.S. citizenship. It is difficult for me to have any sympathy for people born into privilege and complain only when their lives are impacted by this government with a history of violating human rights all over the planet.

After we took Mexico's land by force, Mexican people were forcibly removed from their homes and enterprises. They had been there for centuries.

I have been a working class human rights activist for 50 years. I have never committed a crime at any of the mass actions I participated in. I have been beaten, maced, and arrested many times.

Join us next time we show up at City Hall to demand justice for yet another activist's murder at the hands of the police. You will find out what happens to poor or working class Americans when they demand justice. Join us next time and you will have some allies willing to act on your behalf.

The field agents you complain about are ordered to act and are under duress. They have families just like you do.

Don't forget, 'THE BEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD" killed at least 3 million southeast Asians and still managed to lose the American War on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia and destroy the U.S. economy.

Anonymous

Feel sorry for him. The dogs, too! They can never again feel a free run.

Gregory Wonderwheel

LOL! What a whiner! He says the USA is the best country in the world but after 20 years he's "had enough." Enough what? I won't pay any attention to him until he reveals how he has voted over the last 20 years. Dollars to donuts he has voted Republican every time. He thinks that the government he has voted for his entire life is now somehow different than the government today? I bet he has voted for the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the post 9/11 Patriot Act and he thinks now that the chickens have come home to roost in his own backyard that now there is a problem. When he is willing to apologize for his own behavior as an American, then maybe he can have something to say about the border.

Anonymous

Start digging pit's big enough to berry the cattle they killed. If you chose wisely were to dig the very big whole you might end up solving 2 problems with one stone.

from Richard, V...

I never thought I'd find a reason to criticize our government either - until the Vietnam War came along and changed my life in almost every way except for taking it from me. I was lucky enough to survive Southeast Asia (and it mostly WAS good fortune if you didn't die there) but I never wanted to be there in the first place and actually thought I had a chance of avoiding it, only to discover that wasn't the case.
For the thousands of people who appear to think Mr. Richard Nixon was some kind of saint because the war ended while he was in office, think again.
The Richard Nixon Foundation lies like corn that's been steamrolled into a state of utter flatness when they say he "inherited the war and did everything to end it."

Richard Nixon was elected president in 1968 - by mostly people who DIDN'T go to Vietnam; the ones who actually served weren't even old enough to vote or drink alcoholic beverages. He said he "had a plan to get us out of Vietnam" during the '68 campaign and then did nothing at all about it until after 1972, when he was re-elected on the promise of more peace talks, which he did just enough to look convincing to the elder generation or those people who otherwise would never qualify to go to Vietnam anyway. In between his pathetic promises to end the war, he was carrying out the Watergate scandal, which was brought to public light in June of 1972.
If you weren't actually there (during Nixon's presidency) or have no memory of it, then you really IMO need to be quiet or get more information about it.
The man was one step below pond scum, and he did NOT care about whether we pulled troops out of Vietnam for any reason other than it was an opportunity to get re-elected - kind of like Bush Junior didn't care about the soldiers going to Iraq except as a tool to gain a second term in office.

I was sent to Vietnam during Nixon's presidency in 1970; so even though he made a modest gesture of withdrawing troops in 1969, he was also having people sent there by way of a lottery pick, which was conducted on national television. You sat there and listened to see if your number was going to be called according to your birthday and if it was less than 50 (mine was 12) you could be guaranteed that you were going to be joining the little get-together our military was having in Nam. Especially if you were 1A without doubt and lost 2S, your student deferment, as I did.

Before I even turned 21, I'd been taught that there was more than enough reasons to criticize our government's policies. Unfortunately, said criticism could not be done without also being sent to Vietnam unless you wanted to risk abdicating your entire citizenship or going to jail, NEITHER of which was suitable to me at the time. I was 20 years old; I didn't fancy starting my adult life with a criminal record or in a foreign country.
Beyond that, I make no defense for my decision to serve my country for whatever reason they thought they needed me. I was 20, thought I was helping stop the "feared spread of Communism," and did what I thought I had to do.

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