James Johnson grew up farming on the border between U.S. and Mexico. In fact, his great grandfather bought their New Mexico farm in 1918. Their 7,000-acre ranch runs along 14 miles of the border just west of El Paso. Johnson says the wall is needed and he’s willing to give the government an easement on his land to build it.
“My house is a half mile off the Mexican border,” he told AgriTalk host Chip Flory. “When I'm standing in the bathroom, looking out the bathroom window, my view is Mexico and the border.”
According to Johnson, some stretches of the 14 miles his farm runs along the border is protected by a vehicle barrier, but the rest is barbed wire fence that he’s required to maintain. He says the power struggle between President Trump and the Democrats has less to do with border security than it does preventing the president from keeping a campaign promise.
“I think this is a complete stone wall on their part just trying to shut him down,” he said.
Is It A Crisis?
Every stretch of the border has its own problems, Johnson said. In 2004 and 2005, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) estimated there were 700 to 750 people crossing the border on their ranch each night. The Johnson family was very vocal about the issue and as a result got additional resources to help combat the issues they were facing.
“We got more technology thrown at us, plus the manpower,” Johnson said. “We went from 150 border patrol agents to 400. We still see drive-through and we still see foot traffic. But when they secure one area, it pushes somewhere else and that's what I think the other side doesn't see with this fence.”
The border wall won’t solve all of the problems, Johnson said, but he thinks it’s a necessary place to start.
“We build fences around cattle and cattle still get out,” he said. “You still have to put a fence around them to maintain the integrity of your property.”
In New Mexico, the influx of asylum seekers is causing real issues, Johnson added.
“Hidalgo County, which is the county to the west, actually has the smallest border crossing in New Mexico,” he explained. “Lordsberg, New Mexico, is in Hidalgo County and the day after Christmas they filed for a state of emergency because they're so overly taxed. Their little Hidalgo County Medical Center is staffed by seven and their personnel process through hundreds and hundreds of these asylum seekers a day.”
“The crisis has always been,” he said. “South Texas is in a crisis right now and the boot heel region in New Mexico is in a crisis right now.”
Can The Government Build The Wall On Private Property?
Well, in 1907 President Roosevelt established the Roosevelt Reservation, a 60-foot strip of land on the U.S. side of the United States-Mexico Border, under the jurisdiction of the United States Federal Government. Roosevelt said the land would be used “free from obstruction as a protection against the smuggling of goods between the United States and Mexico."
Johnson said that 60-foot easement should be enough, but if the government needs more space to build the wall, he’d gladly give it to them.
“I guarantee you that there's not a farmer or rancher on this U.S.-Mexican border in the state of New Mexico that's against this [wall],” he said. “They don't have [the Roosevelt Reservation] on all of my farm, there's part of it we actually own all the way to the border, and I will happily give them an easement to build that wall.”