The Texas-Mexico border is far from secure, if you ask the people who actually live on it.
Friday, members of the group Texas Border Volunteers were in East Texas explaining the reality of illegal immigration in our state.
Some of those volunteers live in Falfurrias, Texas, which is about 70 miles north of the border. That's where the volunteers say, many residents' private ranches have become a passageway for drug cartels and human trafficking.
Since 2006, Texas Border Volunteers has been an extra set of eyes and ears for the border patrol. Between Laredo and the coast, the group has identified more than 500 trails used by trespassers.
In organized operations, they stake out those trails and alert law enforcement when they see traffic.
"All these trails are being utilized by these criminal organizations to bring drugs in, bring human traffic... humans in from all over the world," says Mark Vickers, the co-founder of Texas Border Volunteers.
Vickers says people from the Middle East, Asia, South and Central America have all been apprehended in South Texas while trying to enter the country illegally. In interviews with those trespassers, he has learned they'll pay up to $50,000 to take a trail into the U.S., but they're often forced to carry cartel's drugs and they don't always come out alive.
Vickers says, in 2012, 129 people were found dead on his and his neighbors' private ranches.
"All of these are homicides. These are situations in which people bought passage way into our country, but the people took their money and left them behind," Vickers says.
The Vickers' dogs are just as alert as their owners. Last year, they spotted 119 illegal aliens. The border patrol was able to arrest 101 of those people.
Their owner, Linda Vickers, has grown used to the trespassers, but never lets her guard down
"Everyday I have to put on a pistol and my cell phone. I mow the yard on my riding lawn mower with my pistol and cell phone," says Linda Vickers, the Texas Border Volunteers Chief of Staff.
Security on the border is a growing problem that South Texans say hinges on a lack of funding for border security. Despite that need, ranch owners in Falfurrias are not backing down.
Anyone who is 21 or older can volunteer with Texas Border Volunteers after clearing a background check. Multiple times a year, their volunteers, who are spread all across the country, head to South Texas and participate in the group's operations.
For more information about how to join or donate, click here.
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