- - Monday, May 6, 2019

Our government is failing at its primary job — keeping us safe. To fill this void, exasperated ranchers in the bootheel of New Mexico have formed volunteer border patrols. This breakdown of law and order never ends well.

Two-and-a-half years ago, ranchers here told me how their everyday activities are watched by spotters for drug runners and human traffickers. Their families now prefer to stay home at night, because when they venture out, they must be vigilant for danger. They feel like prisoners in this land that promised them freedom.

Until recently, these problems weren’t discussed in polite circles outside of this close-knit community. But Congress’ policies have created a crisis that no longer can be ignored. Now, everyone is talking about the border crisis.

This month, Teresa Johnson told me that her son and son-in-law were driving on their ranch when they came upon a half-dozen drug traffickers heading back to Mexico. The drug traffickers surrounded the young men’s pickup and ordered them out. When they got out, the drug traffickers cocked their fully automatic weapons and marched them to a ditch. Teresa’s son thought his life would end. But the traffickers let them go.

I asked Teresa, “How do you survive?”

“You focus on your work,” she said. “You look straight ahead.”

Many illegal immigrants who enter our country need medical care, including for diseases that spread easily where vaccinations are lacking. With 100,000 illegal immigrants per month, areas of America with low vaccination rates are like dry forests in a lightning storm. In an epidemic, no amount of money will save you.

This is not only New Mexico’s problem. Drugs coming over the Mexican border kill 70,000 Americans a year in all 50 states. But the southern border is weakest in New Mexico, especially in Hidalgo County. New Mexico’s congressional delegation should try to protect our citizens by advocating for stronger border security. But they won’t, because that would mean supporting President Trump — and all five of them are Democrats.

To avoid catastrophe, Congress must immediately approve funding to secure our entire southern border, and reform our current immigration system so it no longer encourages illegal immigration.

Otherwise, New Mexicans on the front lines will continue to live in danger, and Americans across our country will continue to suffer.

• Mick Rich was the 2018 Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in New Mexico.

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