When the Federal government fails in a primary duty to protect the border, states have to protect their own.
The men assumed they had been detained by immigration officers for illegally crossing into the United States. They were wrong. Instead, they were arrested on charges of trespassing on a vast private ranch by highway patrol officers from the Texas state police.
For several months, Texas has been engaged in an effort to repurpose the tools of state law enforcement to stem the sudden increase of people crossing illegally into the country.
To do this, Texas officials led by Gov. Greg Abbott developed a way around the fact that immigration enforcement is a federal government job: State and local police departments partner with the owners of borderland ranches and use trespassing laws to arrest migrants who cross their land.
“That’s an effective way of sending a message,” Abbott said, flanked by nine other Republican governors, at a news conference along the border this fall. “If you come into the state of Texas illegally, you have a high likelihood of not getting caught and released, but instead, arrested and jailed.”
The new approach relies on the participation of local officials and, so far, it has been adopted in two of the state’s 32 border region counties: Kinney, which includes Brackettville, and Val Verde, its neighbor to the west.
Seated on the oak-shadowed patio of their ranch, a few head of cattle walking slowly nearby, Bill and Carolyn Conoly said the situation this year was the worst they could remember.
“We’re constantly repairing,” Conoly said, referring to ranch fences that are bent or cut. “We keep the doors locked, and I have a gun available.”
Motion-activated cameras on the ranch capture images of passing migrants, information that helps the state police locate them. Earlier that day, cameras had picked up a large group walking through the Conoly family ranch; police caught up with the migrants at night on an adjacent ranch — 14 men and one woman.
Lot of single men…