Sharla Ishmael

Editors' Note: This article is from the September issue of Townhall Magazine. This Christmas season, you can receive two subscriptions of Townhall Magazine for the price of one. It makes a great gift!

Joe Johnson’s family has lived and worked on the same property near Columbus, N.M., for almost 100 years. “Our grandfather came here in 1918, right behind Pancho Villa,” he says proudly. Yet he also admits, “If it wasn’t home, I would move away from it.”

The Johnson ranch lies right up against the Mexican border, and illegal immigration has turned what was already a hard way to make a living on drought--plagued rangeland into a nightmare of stolen cattle, broken water lines,ruined fences and grass fi res.

“In 2005, we had 500-plus people crossing our ranch every day,” explains housewife, Teresa Johnson. “In 2006, we had 1,000-plus people crossing every day.These are not our numbers; these are Border Patrol numbers. They had counted foot draff c and the numbers of people they caught and things like that. So, you can just imagine what our fences look like.

“We were afraid for our kids to even walk out to the barn to feed animals. We had to go as a group. One time we walked into the barn and found 15 people sitting there. And the trash is unreal.”


In addition to the usual backpacks, water bottles and clothing, the Johnsons have even found hypodermic needles and syringes in their water troughs. In fact, water sources are a major problem in areas where illegal traffic is heavy. You might think that people wandering through land that belongs to someone else would politely turn on a faucet, fill up their jug and turn off the water. Nope.

“These people will cut pipelines, bathe in our water troughs and even defecate in our water troughs,” explains Teresa.

“That’s not to mention, they would tear off our fl oat valves trying to get a drink of water,” adds Joe. “And if we didn’t catch this quickly, it would drain all of our storage systems. A lot of water in this area is pipelined in for miles. When it would drain, then it would airlock the pipelines. It might take a couple of days before we could get water fl owing again.”

Sharla Ishmael

Sharla Ishmael is a Texas-based freelance writer who grew up in New Mexico on a purebred cattle ranch and has written on illegal immigration for numerous publications.