© 2024 Blaze Media LLC. All rights reserved.
Blaze News investigates: Illegal immigration impacts farmers and ranchers along the border — crop contamination, property damage
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Blaze News investigates: Illegal immigration impacts farmers and ranchers along the border — crop contamination, property damage

Biden's open-border crisis has taken its toll on the Southwestern agricultural community.

The increase in illegal crossings has had a profound impact in recent years on American farmers and ranchers who own land near the southern border.

Illegal immigrants crossing into the United States have trespassed through agricultural land, often contaminating crops or causing property damage. Law enforcement has reported incidents of human smugglers performing "bailouts," a term used to describe when traffickers transporting illegal aliens attempt to make a high-speed car escape to evade capture. In these situations, the smugglers intentionally crash their vehicles, and the unlawful occupants flee on foot in different directions.

Simon Hankinson, a senior research fellow in the Border Security and Immigration Center at the Heritage Foundation, told Blaze News, "The damage to federal and private land, agriculture, and wildlife caused by mass illegal border crossings by foot is one of the many types of preventable collateral damage caused by the Biden administration's opening of U.S. borders and neglect of law enforcement. Those who claim to care about the natural landscape seem to keep quiet on this issue."

Hankinson provided testimony before the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Federal Lands, in October, where he addressed the environmental costs caused by illegal aliens unlawfully traveling through Yuma, Arizona.

"Because of strict food safety regulations, each human trace requires farmers to destroy all the crops in a given radius from any perceived human contamination, from mere footprints to feces and menstrual pads, causing millions of dollars in uninsured losses," he told lawmakers. "The human waste and trash produced by the endless foot traffic not only pollutes crops but also harms wildlife, taints water, and damages delicate desert environments."

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality previously estimated that each person crossing the border leaves behind roughly six to eight pounds of trash.

'None of these crops are insurable.'

Gary Joiner, Texas Farm Bureau spokesperson, told Blaze News that the increase in illegal crossings has adversely affected the state's local and regional agricultural communities.

"Those impacts, particularly on an individual basis, can be devastating financially after a complete loss of the property's usability," Joiner explained. "Fences are cut, damaged, or destroyed by people and/or vehicles. Livestock escape from damaged or destroyed fences and gates onto roadways and highways. Water sources on private property are damaged or destroyed. Clothes and trash are littered on property. Many ranchers have discovered deceased illegal migrants on their property."

Larry Reagan, president of the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau, told Blaze News, "Our farmers and ranchers in our border communities and beyond need Congress to work together to develop solutions to the challenges they face. Together, we must ensure that foreign labor programs are usable and accessible for farmers and ranchers who rely heavily on foreign labor to fill the domestic worker shortage in food production while ensuring that our border communities are not left to deal with the increased pressures of immigration alone."

Yuma County battles illegal immigration

Yuma County, Arizona, is known as the nation's "winter salad bowl." From November through April, it produces more than 91% of North America's leafy greens, an industry worth over $4 billion. According to Yuma County Supervisor Jonathan Lines (R), the county began noticing a "significant increase" in unlawful crossings around January 2022.

The increase in illegal immigration under President Joe Biden has ignited concerns among the agricultural community, particularly regarding crop preservation.

Lines told Blaze News that the Biden administration had agreed to fill the gaps left in the border wall near crop production. The federal government purchased "new material, despite the fact that all of the material purchased under [former President Donald] Trump was sitting adjacent to where these walls needed to be completed," he stated.

"They had the Corps of Engineers design a new type of wall that could easily be removed, and they plugged those gaps," Lines explained.

Before the Biden administration closed the gaps in the border wall near the farmland in Yuma County, farmers were forced to take other preventive measures to protect their crops from illegal aliens, including "inspect[ing] their fields on a daily basis and look for unauthorized entry," according to Lines.

"If they found any type of unauthorized entry into their fields, they then had to conduct tests. But for the most part, they would immediately rope it off, or destroy the crop, or make a decision to allow the entire field to go to seed," he continued. "The problem with this narrative is that none of these crops are insurable."

Lines explained that farmers could not get tractors through the fields if they constructed walls or fences around their own land.

"Their easements and their ownership of those properties would have to be extended another 20 or 30 feet in order to put a barricade. So what they did do is hired additional people to observe the crops and basically stay there 24/7 in and around those growing areas," Lines told Blaze News. "It was expensive."

Last year, the county stationed roughly a dozen portable toilets near agricultural land along the border after farmers discovered human waste in their fields, which presented serious food safety concerns.

Some of the portable toilets were placed on the U.S. side of the border near Los Algodones, Mexico, he said.

"That's where we had everybody coming across. That's where we placed toilets. Six miles down the road, we still have an open border. And that is where the Trump wall ends and the reservation begins. That's where we placed the additional portalets to keep people out of those fields, and they have served their purpose," Lines told Blaze News.

He added that Border Patrol agents are in the area to pick up illegal aliens as they come across the southern border.

"It's kind of intriguing because they [the illegal immigrants] all know what to do. They all just walk across and get lined up. So they have not ventured out into any of the fields," Lines noted.

Regarding illegal aliens entering farmland and contaminating crops, Lines told Blaze News that the county has been able to "solve the majority of the issues around that." However, he noted that the open border wall on the nearby Native American reservation land is still an ongoing problem.

'Our youngest victim, a 10-year-old male.'

According to reports, the Federal Emergency Management Agency previously stated that it would reimburse Yuma County for the expense of placing and maintaining the portable toilets.

"The feds haven't reimbursed us for anything," Lines told Blaze News.

In a statement to Blaze News, FEMA wrote, “No Shelter and Services Program (SSP) funds have been used to reimburse Yuma County, Arizona for placing and maintaining portable toilets near the Southwest border, as Yuma County is not a recipient of Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 SSP or FY 2024 SSP – Allocated (SSP-A).”

“The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) does not directly address border crossings by noncitizen migrants,” the statement continued. “Rather, FEMA administers SSP, in coordination with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). SSP makes federal funds available to eligible recipients and subrecipients for reimbursement of costs associated with providing shelter and other eligible services to noncitizen migrants who have been encountered and released by the Department of Homeland Security.”

Since Biden took office, Lines estimated that Yuma County's crop damage loss was roughly $2.5-$3 million.

Lines told Blaze News, "The farmers have had to implement their own rules and regulations in order to preserve and protect that commodity. And they've done an amazing job stepping up and making sure their food safety procedures are robust and complete. Being out there almost on a daily basis, I am very much appreciative of their efforts to keep our food supply and our food chain safe and secure. We have not had any incidents arising out of the illegals coming across because of the steps that they've taken to make sure that none of that product reaches the supply chain. They simply destroy it."

He noted that Biden's border executive order, which the administration claimed would crack down on illegal crossings, coincided with the increase in summer temperatures. The White House has boasted that within the first three weeks of the executive action's implementation, southern border encounters dropped more than 40%.

"We always see a little bit of a downturn when summer starts," Lines remarked. "However, because of the rise of the crossing in the San Diego and Jacumba [Hot Springs] area, San Diego and Tucson actually transport people from those two areas to Yuma to be processed because of the massive processing center that Homeland Security set up in Yuma."

Lines detailed other issues impacting the Yuma County community as a result of the increase in unlawful crossings.

He noted that the county is only being reimbursed roughly 10 cents on the dollar for incarcerated illegal aliens who have committed state crimes.

"As a county supervisor, that's frustrating for me that we're still shouldering that burden," Lines stated.

Additionally, he outlined the effect the open-border crisis has had on the county's food bank and women and children's center.

Due to its seasonal agricultural industry, Yuma County has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Approximately 20%-25% of residents utilize the county's food bank.

"I was the chairman for the past three years of the food bank," Lines said. "The [nongovernmental organizations] that we distribute to, they saw an increased demand in need. And so we were taking product that was designed and designated for Yuma residents and distributing that to anybody that showed up to the NGOs looking for assistance."

"Our women's and children's center was impacted," he continued. "Our youngest victim, a 10-year-old male who had been raped somewhere on his journey to the United States. And we have jurisdictional issues. Of course, they attended to him, and they were able to collect the DNA, but you have a jurisdictional issue. What do you do with it? Where do you send it?"

Gaps in the border wall

Jim Chilton, a fifth-generation rancher, operates a 50,000-acre ranch in Arizona with five and a half miles of land along the southern border.

Chilton told Blaze News that former President Trump's border wall replaced five miles of what used to be a four-strand barbed-wire fence along his property. The last half-mile of the wall was halted when Biden took office and left incomplete.

"The traffic coming through is twofold, very distinct," Chilton explained, adding that his ranch has motion-activate cameras for every 10,000 acres of land.

"So the probability of catching an image of people coming through is very low. However, since Biden took office, I've gotten 3,500 images of people dressed totally in camouflage and wearing carpet shoes and similar backpacks coming through my ranch going north," he said.

'We had an agent shot five times on our ranch.'

Carpet shoes are typically sneakers with flooring material and fabric fixed to the bottom to cover the tread and reduce the appearance of footprints.

Chilton said some of the individuals crossing unlawfully into the U.S. and onto his ranch are those who know they do not qualify for asylum and, therefore, do not want to be processed by law enforcement officers at the border.

"Some of them — I'm told by the Border Patrol — are packing drugs. They estimate the others are people trying to get back into the United States after being deported. People who are criminals from around the world," Chilton told Blaze News. "These are really bad guys, and they're mostly all gotaways."

"The other type of people coming around the end of the wall are dressed in street clothes from all over the world. They come around the end of the wall, and they essentially say, 'Here we are, Border Patrol. Please take us to Tucson, process us, and release us into the United States,'" he continued. "They claim asylum, but they're mostly all economic-oriented asylum-seekers."

Chilton stated that he has not seen a Border Patrol agent on his ranch in months.

"Because of the policy of the president, they are exhausted processing people. I talked to one Border Patrol agent that told me he signed up to secure the border. Now all he is is a glorified taxi driver," he remarked.

Chilton told Blaze News that there have been numerous "serious incidents" on his ranch due to the increase in illegal crossings.

"We had an agent shot five times on our ranch, and he just barely survived. We have seen groups with what appears to be the leader with an AK-47 as they go through the country. One of the outrageous things is the cartel has scouts on our mountains, and they're really in control of everything. Their duty is to know where the Border Patrol is at all times and to give directions on how the drug cartel people come through the ranch. They have really expensive phones — satellite. Of course, encryption, and it has a radio function. In today's dollars they're probably around $3,000 phones," Chilton stated.

He noted that it seems as though the scouts are guiding the illegal immigrants through more remote areas of the ranch and avoiding the houses and barns.

"President Biden made a horrible mistake by stopping the construction of the border wall. We need a wall," Chilton told Blaze News. "We need the Border Patrol at the wall, and we need to apprehend anybody trying to climb over, or cut, or dig under the wall. We need to secure the border at the border. No one in this world has the right to come into our country except legally."

Texas moves to protect landowners

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) announced the online application process for the state's new Landowner Compensation Program in May. The program aims to protect the state's agricultural community from the consequences of illegal immigration.

The initiative provides monetary compensation for damages to farm and ranch land caused by illegal aliens. Landowners can be reimbursed up to $75,000 for repair costs.

The Texas Farm Bureau backed Senate Bill 1133 to create the program, which appropriated $18 million in state money for the 2024 and 2025 fund.

Joiner, a TFB spokesperson, told Blaze News, "Landowners of agricultural property along the Texas-Mexico border facing land and property damage from border-related crimes now have a compensation program available to them — the Landowner Compensation Program."

"Landowners have 90 days after an incident to file a claim and provide a written police report that documents the damage caused by migrants, smugglers, or drug traffickers. Landowners are also encouraged to maintain all documentation of proof that property damage was sustained and the proof and cost of repairs, if made," Joiner continued.

He added, "Property damage caused by migrants illegally crossing the border through private property has been an ongoing problem for decades, but the traffic and damage has only increased in recent years. This program allows farmers and ranchers in border and rural counties to receive relief from the damages caused by trafficking, smuggling, and bailouts that occur on their personal property."

Like Blaze News? Bypass the censors, sign up for our newsletters, and get stories like this direct to your inbox. Sign up here!

Want to leave a tip?

We answer to you. Help keep our content free of advertisers and big tech censorship by leaving a tip today.
Want to join the conversation?
Already a subscriber?
Candace Hathaway

Candace Hathaway

Candace Hathaway is a staff writer for Blaze News.
@candace_phx →