Texas ranchers say their land is at the mercy of cartels

  • Texas ranchers say they are scared as cartels gain ground along the border
  • One said the cartels "basically own" the area near her ranch
  • The Texas Department of Public Safety is meeting with landowners Thursday

EDWARDS COUNTY, Texas (NewsNation) — Debbie Douglas closed the shutters of her Texas ranch home — one step of a routine she didn’t anticipate, but which has become a part of her daily life.

“She doesn’t want them open,” Douglas said, now securing the shutters to her 7-year-old granddaughter’s bedroom.

Some ranch owners along the U.S.-Mexico border are fearful for their lives and property as regional cartels are gaining ground on both sides of the border.

Some women who are holding down homesteads in Texas are arming themselves — with some even reinforcing their homes.

“It’s sickening because we have put in so much to this place — blood, sweat and tears — for it to be destroyed by some criminal organization and drug cartel is heartbreaking,” Douglas said.

Video obtained by NewsNation shows what Douglas says are undocumented individuals nearly breaking into her home.

“All you can do is stand your ground; that’s all you can do,” she said. “You’ve got to fight for what you believe in.”

Douglas says she spends half of her time on the hunting ranch which, against her will, has become something of a fortress. She has spent upward of $13,000 on enhanced security measures since the break-ins.

“This whole area is their playground. They basically own it,” Douglas told NewsNation. “It’s sad. I’m not going to fear them. I’m not. I’m not going to let them run me out of here.”

Texas is a stand-your-ground state — like Arizona — and Douglas says while the case of Arizona rancher George “Alan” Kelly makes her question what the outcome would be if she had to protect herself, she knows her rights and will do what is necessary.

Kelly is being held on a charge of first-degree murder in a fatal shooting of a man tentatively identified as a Mexican citizen.

“If they do come up or toward me, I will shoot,” she said. “I don’t want to. I don’t want to kill anybody. But if they come towards me … if it’s me or them … I’m shooting.”

Douglas said she doesn’t know what else the government wants her to do, especially when it takes Border Patrol agents at least 45 minutes to get to their ranch.

Less than 40% of land along the southern border is privately owned, which includes the Conoly ranch in Kinney County, just south of Douglas’ ranch.

Lisa Conoly recently retired from teaching in Brackettville. She now plays the organ at church and holds down the homestead on a generational cattle ranch that has been in her husband Stan’s family since 1907. She feels like she’s being held captive by the cartels.

“Stay in your homes, lock your doors at night,” she said. “I’m an American citizen. Where are my rights to be safe in my own home?”

Conoly said she doesn’t go out to feed their dogs without her pistol on her hip.

“We don’t have a neighborhood watch, we have ourselves,” she said. “And police are not like Johnny-on-the-Spot, not because they don’t want to be, but because of the vastness of the acreage and the miles between us.”

In Kinney County alone, where the Conoly ranch is located, nearly 5,000 undocumented individuals have been prosecuted for criminal trespass since the end of August.

The Texas Department of Public Safety is meeting with landowners in the area on Thursday to discuss the Operation Lone Star Criminal Trespass Initiative. They will also hear concerns about the flow of illegal immigration.

NewsNation writer Devan Markham contributed to this report.


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