'It's always been very peaceful': Texas landowners who live along the border say they feel safe despite Trump's talk of a 'crisis'

mcallen texas border landImmigrants frequently cross through private land in McAllen, Texas, along the US-Mexico border.Business Insider/Daniel Brown

  • Despite President Donald Trump's talk about crime and a "crisis" along the US-Mexico border, landowners in McAllen, Texas, say they feel safe on their properties.
  • Their area, known as the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector, has the highest number of Border Patrol arrests along the entire US-Mexico border.
  • Residents told Business Insider that they frequently see people illegally crossing the border near their land, but many of them simply ask for water.

MCALLEN, TEXAS - For the Texans who live along the US-Mexico border in the Rio Grande Valley, the country's busiest corridor for illegal immigration, the Central American migrants who cross their land every day are simply a part of daily life.

Despite President Donald Trump's bluster about a "crisis on the southern border" and "horrible crime" bred by "open borders," residents in McAllen say they feel safe in their homes and don't fear the immigrants they see on or near their properties.

The area has become the epicenter of the Trump administration's crackdown on illegal immigration, including the controversial "zero tolerance" policy to prosecute every person who crosses the border illegally.

Several landowners who spoke to Business Insider said they frequently see immigrants darting through their land. Sometimes the immigrants beg locals to call Border Patrol to rescue them; other times, they flee at the sight of the officers in their green uniforms.

"Actually here in this area, to me it's always been very peaceful," said one landowner who asked to go only by her first name, Ana. "No gang violence, no people crossing and trying to steal our stuff or whatever - nothing like that."

Ana said her property has been in her family for generations. It used to belong to her grandmother, who would often take in desperate-looking immigrants and feed and clothe them.

"Growing up, definitely we would see illegals crossing by, but we've never encountered any dangerous situations with any of them," she said.

But times have changed, she added. Nowadays, Ana fears that offering too much assistance to unauthorized immigrants could get her in trouble with the government.

So when she sees border-crossers on her property who look thirsty and worn-out from their journey, she merely points them to the garden hose.

'This is the way you'll get across'

mcallen texas border migrantsA U.S. Border Patrol spotlight shines on a terrified mother and son from Honduras as they are found in the dark near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018 in McAllen, Texas. The asylum seekers had rafted across the Rio Grande from Mexico and had become lost in the woods. They were then detained by Border Patrol agents and then sent to a processing center for possible separation. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is executing the Trump administration's 'zero tolerance' policy towards undocumented immigrants. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also said that domestic and gang violence in immigrants' country of origin would no longer qualify them for political asylum statusGetty Images/Daniel Brown

In recent years, Texas' Rio Grande Valley, which includes McAllen, has had the highest number of Border Patrol arrests along the entire US-Mexico border.

In the 2017 fiscal year, the area accounted for a whopping 45% of all Border Patrol apprehensions.

One Texas landowner who declined to be identified told Business Insider he was no stranger to the drug smuggling that occurs near the area, but he still never feels fearful.

Instead, he feels sorry for the immigrants he believes are often exploited by drug smugglers.

One morning, he even saw six-foot-tall stacks of black bags on the corner of his property, and he can only imagine what they contained. But he said he hoped the immigrants who hauled them to his property weren't caught, otherwise they'd receive far more than a simple misdemeanor for entering the country illegally.

"Sometimes [immigrants are] used to bring those things over," he said, meaning drugs. "They want to get across and they're told, 'This is the way you'll get across, if you do this.'"

Another landowner, Chet Miller, who owns an alfalfa farm outside McAllen, says illegal crossing has been a constant fact of life along the border - but he has noticed fewer people now than there were than several years ago.

"We had groups coming across the river that were over 100 in a group. Like a herd, a whole herd of people," he said. "They would stand around, and as soon as they see us they'd wave and ask us to call Border Patrol. Because as long as they knew somebody here, they'd get to stay, or a court date."

Like Ana, Miller said many of the people he encounters simply request a drink of water. Summer highs in the area regularly soar past the 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and they've often been walking for days. Roughly one-quarter of the immigrants ask Miller for rides, which he declines.

Miller said he, too, feels safe on his property - even when he's unarmed and encounters people too close to his home in the middle of the night.

"I'll go outside at night without a gun, and get a guy by the collar of the shirt and say 'Come on,'" he said.

Michelle Markcontributed reporting from New York.

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