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Border farmers see threats in the US migrant crisis

Palominas, (APP – UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News – Apr 21, 2024) John Ladd, who says he could ride a horse before he could walk, is a fourth-generation rancher from a family that arrived in Arizona when the border between Mexico and the United States was just a line on the map.

Now he sees that border – and the thousands of people who cross it every day – as a threat to his entire way of life.

“It determines how we run the ranch now, and that is not the most effective way,” he told AFP.

Ladd’s sprawling cattle ranch is right up against the wall that—at least on this stretch—divides Mexico from the United States.

When migrants sneak across the border, they pass through his 6,500-hectare area, which he says leaves a trail of destruction in their wake: cut fences, stray livestock and broken water pipes.

“I probably lose 10,000 liters of water a week because they break a pipe to get a drink and then just let it run,” he said.

“I spend half my time repairing the damage from the people who enter the ranch.”

– Murder charges –

Border Patrol agents are sweeping his country looking for migrants who have crossed illegally, though most people believe the patrols provide little deterrent.

A 75-year-old farmer is currently on trial for allegedly taking the matter into his own hands.

George Alan Kelly is charged with manslaughter over the death of Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea.

Kelly says he fired his AK-47 rifle in the air when he saw a group of migrants who he believed posed a threat to him, his wife and their property.

One of the nine bullets struck Cuen-Buitimea in the chest, puncturing a major artery.

Prosecutors said Kelly, author of a novella about a border rancher turned vigilante against Mexican traffickers, acted deliberately and targeted migrants.

Ladd said he does not know Kelly personally but fears a conviction would set a dangerous precedent.

“He protected himself, his wife and his property. And one of the most important things about America is being able to protect your private property,” he said.

Ladd added that even small landowners, not just farmers, are “letting illegals walk through their homes.”

“They won’t be able to do anything to protect themselves. That’s what everyone is concerned about.”

– ‘Endangered’ –

The vast empty sky and vast plains of Arizona have always posed a certain threat to people who make a living far from the towns and cities.

When the West was still wild and untamed, there were bandits here, who took what they wanted with threats or violence.

The 20th century brought a bit more order and a larger – and better organized – state that was generally able to protect its taxpayers.

But for some who earn their living among the purple-colored mountains, that protection now feels insufficient.

“We felt a little threatened,” said Kyle Best, owner of the Marley Ranch in Amado, about 100 miles west of the Ladd Ranch.

“At night… you just go into the house and don’t look outside.”

Best said, insecurity, and what he says is a complete lack of control at the border, will be a major problem in the November election, as President Joe Biden tries to fend off a challenge from former President Donald Trump .

“It’s a problem for everyone… not just everyone living on the border, it’s a problem for the entire United States,” Best said.

“I am not against immigration. Everyone’s families came here through immigration, but it has to be done properly.

“It needs to be addressed and it needs to be stopped.”

That’s a sentiment Mike Gannuscio, president of the Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association, agrees with.

“We are an immigration country and I respect those who come here to work, and I respect those who come here legally,” he said.

“But you know, the wave is coming to the border. It’s not fair.’

All the farmers interviewed by AFP said they would vote for Trump in November, a man whose previous stay in the White House they associated with much lower levels of illegal migration.

Ladd emphasized that it is not easy to support one party over another; he recognizes that politicians of all stripes have failed in recent decades on the complex issue of immigration.

“My statement is: the Republicans want cheap labor, the Democrats want cheap votes and America wants cheap tomatoes,” he said.

It’s also not a matter of racism or xenophobia, Ladd said, adding that there is a human cost to a migration process dominated by gangs of human smugglers.

“The people who escort migrants to America are just leaving them to die,” he said.

“And when you see a dead body on your ranch, it’s a game changer.”