FALFURRIAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Not content with the way the federal government is securing the border or with sitting by and doing nothing about it, a team of volunteers are patrolling private ranches in South Texas looking for people coming into the country illegally.
“We certainly don’t see ourselves as vigilantes,” said Jeff L., one of more than two dozen border volunteers who took part in a three day watch in Brooks County in August.
The group, called the Texas Border Volunteers, has members from all over the country but nearly half of the volunteers are from North Texas.
So far this year, they’ve spotted more than 400 people on private land trying to walk around the U.S. Homeland Security check-point on Highway 281 near Falfurrias.
The group says U.S. Border Patrol agents caught more than half of those they reported.
“It’s a question of doing something about it as opposed to reading a blog on the Internet and hitting a like on Facebook,” said Jeff L. “It’s getting out and doing something.”
Jeff L., who is from Fort Worth and who like most volunteers did not want to give his full last name, said he volunteers because he says the government is not doing enough and because it saves lives.
CBS 11 News went with the border volunteers on their August watch.
During one of the early morning patrols Jeff L. spotted a woman lying up against a fence post. She said she was traveling with a group of eight from Mexico when she lost them in the dark of the night.
She had been walking for hours without food and water. “If she makes the wrong turn out her, she’ll be dead by this afternoon,” said Jeff L. “ She wasn’t in any shape to survive the day outside.”
Jeff L. gave the woman water and then called the U.S. Border Patrol to pick her up. Those found alive are turned over to the federal government, but those found deceased become the county’s responsibility.
Brooks County has buried hundreds of unidentified bodies found out on private ranches.
County judge Raul Ramirez said the burials this year alone will cost his already poor county more than $800,000.
“That’s why we are in the financial situation that we are,” said Ramirez, whose county is broke.
Sacred Heart Cemetery in Falfurrias serves as a reminder of the cost and danger of trying to cross through the harsh south Texas terrain, but people continue to come.
The border volunteers say they’ve spotted twice as many people during the first nine months of this year compared to last year, and it’s not just Mexican nationals they’re seeing.
“Probably 60 percent to 70 percent of the groups we encounter are not Mexican,” said Dr. Mike Vickers, who started the group and who owns a ranch in South Texas. “We see a lot of Chinese and people from India and Pakistan.”
“We see a lot of things that the American public has no clue that is going on.”
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