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His sprawling ranch became an illegal-immigration highway when the Border Patrol diverted its attention to several border towns in an effort to take control of the established ports of entry. That effort moved the illegal immigrants to the remote areas of the border, including the Cross Rail Ranch.

“This is my land. I´m the victim here,” Mr. Barnett said. “When someone´s home and loved ones are in jeopardy and the government seemingly can´t do anything about it, I feel justified in taking matters into my own hands. And I always watch my back.”