by Sylvia Longmire
30 Mar 2015

There are few things that are more American than raising cattle in the great State of Texas. Every year, thousands of cattle raisers from the state and the southwestern US gather for the annual Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) convention. I had the privilege presenting during their general session on border security issues, in addition to speaking to several of the ranchers and ranch owners about their border concerns.

It seems there is a perception by much of the rest of the country that Texans are a homogenous bunch, made even more so by being part of the tight-knit ranching community. But just like in my home of southern Arizona, every rancher—especially those who live on the border with Mexico—has a different opinion about the threats posed by unsecure borders, drug smugglers, and illegal immigrants.

Typically, ranchers on or near the border have more pressing day-to-day security problems on their land, like drug-laden trucks running through their pastures, fence lines being cut and water pipes broken, their homes burglarized, and their vehicles stolen. Some are vehemently anti-illegal immigrant, but others would like to see a compassionate resolution to the immigration reform impasse.

Many of the cattle raisers I spoke to have ranches several hours north of the border, but their concerns are just as real. One cattle raiser who has a ranch in central Texas, and did not wish to be named, is concerned about the impact that drug war violence in Mexico is having on his cross-border business. A considerable number of his customers are Mexican citizens, who sometimes find it very difficult to travel to his ranch to look at or purchase cattle, and sometimes even pay for a transaction in a secure manner.

And the danger presents itself to Texas ranchers as well. Parts of Mexico are ideal for raising cattle, and US raisers need to make frequent trips to engage in the trade with their Mexican counterparts. Because the locations of some ranches are in areas with high levels of drug cartel activity and violence, the lack of security in these areas often hampers some of these cattle deals that can be quite lucrative for ranches on both sides of the border.

While the views about how best to secure the border and the concerns that stem from the border vary among Texas cattle raisers, there is a consensus that the current situation is untenable.