I took no pleasure in writing this. In fact, I still do not want to write it but feel compelled because it is such an important issue for Texas outdoors lovers and our nation. There is no political favor to be gained and in fact this will probably anger some of you but what is going on at the Texas/Mexico border including the phenomenon of “rape trees” needs to be addressed.
Back in 2005, I wrote a feature story about human/coyote interactions and will never forget speaking with a Jim Hogg County landowner who told me he was finding an increasing number of dead illegal immigrants on his property. Apparently they were unprepared for the harsh environment during the hot summer and perished on their way through thick cactus and thorns.
It broke my heart to think of people perishing in the quest for better lives (many of them at least) despite the fact I believed (and still do) that we should secure our border and have a thorough immigration and naturalization process like every other country in the free world.
Fast forward nine years and a headline on the Drudge Report reads “Hundreds of Dead Illegal Immigrants found in one South Texas County”.
It linked to a story from the UK Daily Mail featuring ranchers in Brooks County who are finding terrible things on their properties.
Then there are the “rape trees”, where smugglers allegedly mark a tree with the panties of illegal immigrant women and young girls they rape on their way in. Think of your own loved ones experience rape and you can see what an unsettling sign these “rape trees” are.
And then there’s perhaps the true horror of it all-the mainstream media coverage.
Hovering over the death, confusion and anger over the issue like vultures, they are helping turn our border area into a gross political circus with no regard for the citizens of this state or the horrors they are reporting on the other side of the border. In the 24/7 media culture, anything that results in a spike in web traffic or viewers goes, good, bad ugly or downright untruthful.
The reason we are addressing this issue is not to tackle the political ramifications or motives or even to debate enforcement of current laws. It is to make you aware that things are simply not as they used to be along our border and you should be aware of certain things when hunting, fishing and visiting the remote areas along its corridor.
Even federal agencies are posting warnings. The following is from the National Park Service’s Big Bend National Park website on a page entitled, “Visiting a Border Area”.
#Know where you are at all times, follow good safety procedures, and use common sense. Remember, cell phone service is limited in many areas of the park.
#Keep valuables, including spare change, out of sight and lock your vehicle.
#Avoid travel on well-used but unofficial “trails”.
#Do not pick up hitchhikers.
#People in distress may ask for food, water, or other assistance. It is recommended that you do not make contact with them, but note the location, and immediately notify park rangers. Lack of water is a life-threatening emergency in the desert.
There are more safety tips that involve crossing, smuggling and other activities that could spoil a wonderful trip to one of the most beautiful parts of the Lone Star State.
And on the other hand there are statistics showing the border areas are “safer” than the largest cities in Texas.
Who are you to believe?
This is a time to let common sense and cool heads prevail.
Should we be afraid to go hunting or fishing in South or West Texas?
Absolutely not. In fact, I have been out to Alpine twice in the last few months and in other parts of the Trans Pecos. I will exercise caution and keep a closer on eye on things that maybe I have in the past.
The truth is any time you go into a remote area, you put yourself at risk of running into dangerous people looking to do harm. Ditto for the city but the difference is remoteness. When you’re five miles off a paved road on a ranch with no cell service and someone attacks, you’re in a different situation than in the middle of a city. That is one of the things that makes a game here are people crossing onto our border, undocumented and although many of them are simply super poor people wanting a better life, we know there is a dangerous criminal element involved as well.
That’s not a political statement. It’s a fact.
Don’t let the headlines scare you but don’t let them fool you either. There’s a real story going on out there and the landowners and leaseholders along the border have and continue to see it play out first hand.
Proceed with caution, use wisdom and if you’re so inclined pray for the people on both sides of the border who are in a situation that looks to get worse before it gets better.
Chester Moore, Jr.