McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Starr County rancher Richard Guerra currently has no head of cattle on his 8,000-acre ranch in the South Texas border town of Roma.
Damage from an increase in illegal immigration and what he says is a need for a border wall continue to affect this ranch that has been in his family for four generations, he said.
Guerra said migrants often cross onto his lands and have destroyed his fences, which has allowed his livestock to escape. Furthermore, Mexican livestock and even people who cross the river from Mexico onto his property, import deer fever tick. The livestock from Mexico came after cartels ran off Mexican ranchers on the other side of the Rio Grande, he told KVEO.
Guerra told Border Report on Thursday that he would look into the governor’s request for border residents to self-report property damage linked to an uptick in illegal immigration, and he said he appreciates Gov. Greg Abbott’s concerns and attention to the situation.
The 83-year-old Guerra said he attended Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s town hall meeting with former President Donald Trump on Wednesday in the Rio Grande Valley. And he said what he heard helped to reaffirm his support for the governor’s plans to build a border wall between Texas and Mexico.
However, he said his primary reason for wanting a barricade isn’t to prevent migrants from coming across and vandalizing his vast ranchland, but rather to prevent tick-infested cattle, horses and livestock from migrating across the Rio Grande from Mexico and mixing with his livestock, which he has had to let go because of the exorbitant costs associated with rounding up and dipping the cattle in pesticide every two weeks.
“Right now, the biggest problem is the economic losses we have because of that. We get quarantined because of the fever tick — which is my big issue — which is why I favor the border wall to help stop that,” Guerra said via phone.
I’m proud of my heritage and I want to preserve and protect my property. So I do support the many initiatives that the governor is taking for that very reason.”Rancher Richard Guerra, Roma, Texas
He said he had to hire helicopters to gather the cattle and then use ranch hands to treat each cow and it got so expensive that he got rid of them all.
“By the time you pay all that, there’s no profits,” he said. “I’m proud of my heritage and I want to preserve and protect my property. So I do support the many initiatives that the governor is taking for that very reason.”
The loss of cattle, broken fences and livestock that have escaped when fences are down, are all expenses that Guerra chalks up to an increase in illegal immigration since President Joe Biden took office.
Guerra told KVEO the Department of Homeland Security and Border Patrol have briefed him on some possible new changes to border security. Abbott on June 10 revealed his plans during a Border Security Summit in Del Rio, Texas.
But Abbott has since removed Starr County from the 34 counties the governor originally declared a disaster on May 31 due to the immigration increase. This came after the leaders of four Rio Grande Valley counties of Starr, Hidalgo, Cameron and Willacy met last Friday and decided they would not declare local states of disaster and go along with Abbott’s plans, as the governor has requested of the border counties.
Zapata County Judge Joe Rathmell has signed the local disaster declaration, and he has told Border Report that his county suffers from a deer tick infestation and quarantine, and his ranching family has also suffered from it, especially when cattle come across from Mexico bringing the deadly disease.
He told Border Report that he hopes this measure will help to bring in much needed relief funds for his rural county of just 14,000 residents.
At least 50 premises in Zapata County, as well as several sites in Starr County, are in a temporary quarantine area to prevent the spread of the cattle fever tick.
Guerra said that as a member of the South Texans’ Property Rights Association, he was invited to Wednesday’s Town Hall where he heard Trump and Abbott explain what they want to see happen along the Texas-Mexico border.
Guerra has served on the executive board for the association, which has a link to the Texas Division of Emergency Management’s Damage Survey online tool for ranchers to report property damages that are immigration-related. Filling out the survey does not guarantee reimbursement funds, however.
He says that what he has heard this past week has got him excited and he is tempted to bring back cattle onto his lands. But he remains cautious.
“In the back of my mind, I think what are the chances I’ll get quarantined again? So it’s a gamble. But those are my main reasons for a barrier,” Guerra said. “As a rancher that’s my livelihood.”
Guerra said the human traffickers, or coyotes, who operate across the Rio Grande in the Mexican city of Miguel Alemán, control when migrants flow across into his ranchlands. And if they do, he says they often destroy gates and fences as they rush to make their way North.
“It doesn’t end. It depends some days, yes, other days no. You never know. That’s the way it is with these people. You never know when they are coming across or if they’re going to cross your property. That doesn’t mean they’re not going to cross the river, because they do. But they may go on somebody else’s property,” Guerra said.