Ronnie Osburn was preparing to talk to National Review Online Thursday about lawlessness in his border community when his home was broken into.
Osburn, a rancher who lives just south of a Border Patrol checkpoint in Brooks County, Texas, says he stepped away for about 45 minutes, and when he returned somebody had trashed his house. The trespassers shattered his gun case, leaving a trail of blood throughout the house, but dropped the guns near the kitchen before scattering out the back door. They had searched through the house, opened drawers, and even left a heap of uncooked bacon in a frying pan on the stove.
Ranchers in South Texas say they are seeing a greater criminal element among illegal immigrants trespassing through their property. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers responded to the situation. Although no arrests have been made, a Brooks County sheriff’s deputy tells National Review Online the break-in involved “undocumented crossers.” At one point a Border Patrol agent said he thought the trespassers had been spotted about a half-mile north of the ranch, headed in the same direction as the Border Patrol checkpoint near Falfurrias.
Border Patrol agents carrying AR-15s and 12-gauge pumps searched the property with Osburn, who also had an AR-15, looking for any sign of the trespassers. After scanning his backyard, Osburn discovered three shoes left behind, and Border Patrol agents said they expected the burglars were less than a mile away.
“Welcome to South Texas,” Osburn tells me while extending his hand.
“This is not the first time this has happened,” he says. “I have Border Patrol in here every day chasing groups, just about.”
As daylight faded, a Border Patrol agent gave the order to leave the ranch, saying he did not want to send his guys into the brush after an unknown number of illegal immigrants who could be waiting for him with weapons. The Brooks County Sheriff’s Department is now leading the investigation, but it has turned up no more leads days after the break-in occurred.
Osburn says he has had to take extra precautions in case of just such an attack. “When I go to sleep at night, I lay down and I put my pistol there, I measure it where if somebody comes in the house I can pick it up and go,” Osburn says. When mowing the lawn, Osburn says, ranchers in South Texas always need a pistol ready.
“Down here there’s no question, ‘Oh, was it loaded?’” Osburn says. “Well, hell yeah, it’s loaded. Why have a gun if it’s not loaded? And it’s off safety too. That’s the way we live.”
Other ranchers tell me that the amount of OTM — other than Mexican — traffic is increasing in South Texas, and that the disposition of the travelers has grown more hostile. Ranchers say the immigrants who reach Brooks County are ready to fight.
Mike Vickers, a doctor who lives on a ranch a few miles north on the opposite side of the Border Patrol checkpoint, says he has had his home broken into too. He says that one week, he had to pull his gun three times. Two of those times, he says, he wasn’t sure whether or not he’d have to pull the trigger.
“We’re fighting a war here and we’ve been fighting it a long time,” Mike Vickers says. “These people we’re encountering here are combative.”
Mike Vickers lives with his wife, Linda, who is the chief of staff of the Texas Border Volunteers — a group of people who assist law enforcement with securing the border. Linda says fewer women illegally travel through her property now, because more are surrendering near the border located approximately 70 miles south of the Vickers ranch.
Linda Vickers says she has seen a higher criminal element trespassing through her property and says the OTM traffic coming through her ranch knows how to hug trees and hide in the salt grass. For this reason she has a team of dogs that travel along her property with her, and she can decipher when trespassers set foot on her property by the way her dogs bark.
“The dogs seem to keep them from running, for some reason,” she says with a chuckle. “The dogs like it when they run.”