James Johnson grew up farming on the border between the U.S. and Mexico. In fact, his great grandfather bought their New Mexico farm in 1918. Their 7,000-acre ranch runs along the border just west of El Paso, Texas. Johnson said 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 window, I see Mexico and the border.”
According to Johnson, some of the 14 miles his farm runs along the border is protected by a vehicle barrier, but the rest is barbed wire fence he’s required to maintain. He said the power struggle between President Donald Trump and the Democrats has less to do with border security than it has with preventing the president from keeping a campaign promise.
Every stretch of the border has its own problems, Johnson explains. From 2004 to 2005, Immigration and Customs Enforcement estimated there were 700 to 750 people crossing the border on his ranch each night. The Johnsons were vocal about the issue and 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-thrus 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 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. “The day after Christmas, Lordsberg, N.M., in Hidalgo County, filed for a state of emergency because they’re so overly taxed. Their little medical center is staffed by seven people and they’re overwhelmed by hundreds and hundreds of these asylum seekers a day.”
Can the government build the wall on private property? In 1907, President Roosevelt established the Roosevelt Reservation, a 60' strip of land on the U.S. side of the border with Mexico, under the jurisdiction of the federal government. Roosevelt said the land would be used “free from obstruction as a protection against the smuggling of goods between the U.S. and Mexico.”
Johnson said that 60' 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 there’s not a farmer or rancher on the 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, but I will happily give them an easement to build that wall.”
To learn more about farmers who live along the U.S.–Mexico border, visit bit.ly/border-wall-debate.