What is in this article?:
- Borderland values plummet with rise of drug cartels
- Downplaying violence
- In a time when farmland values are exceptionally strong, thousands of acres of prime borderland property are currently available for below market value, yet few buyers are giving the property a second look.
- Realtor Terry Urdal says few buyers are willing to gamble on property plagued by serious border issues including drug cartel violence and an increasing influx of illegal immigrants streaming into the Valley to escape what some term the most violent region on earth.
“The biggest problem is the denial of border officials on this side of the river who continue to downplay what is clearly an explosive situation. Some local law enforcement officials say criminal activity exists in places like Detroit and is not just a problem in our border region. But I don’t remember ever reading about mass graves where 200-plus victims have been buried on U.S. soil. There are drug dealers leading large groups of men across Texas ranchland carrying AK 47 rifles, and many farmers and ranchers in South Texas fear for their lives everyday,” he contends.
Indeed, recent crime data released in Mexico City is startling. According to an official Mexican government report, 15,273 crime-related deaths were recorded in 2010 alone, raising the total death toll to 34, 612 since Mexican President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006. Most of those deaths occurred in Northern Mexico, and the majority of those took place in cities and communities on or within a few miles of the Texas border.
“Only about 10 percent of the cartel-related violence on this side of the border is being reported,” Urdal claims. “And that’s largely because many officials in Texas border cities want to keep it quiet out of fear of jeopardizing cross-border commerce between the two nations.”
Cities in Texas like McAllen, Laredo, and Brownsville depend on legal trade and commerce with Mexico. Recent estimates indicate as many as 150,000 travelers move across the U.S./Mexican border every day for purposes of shopping or conducting legitimate business, resulting in a positive economic impact for cities on both sides of the border. U.S. and Mexican imports and exports of agriculture products alone, like fresh fruits, vegetables and livestock, represent a significant economic impact and provide substantial and positive trade between the two countries.
But according to the Texas Department of Agriculture, the illegal trade conducted across the border overshadows the positive impact, and spillover violence is increasingly threatening the life and livelihoods of U.S. farmers and ranchers.
“A lot of good farm and ranch land along the river has been valued at $5,000 an acre, but currently we can’t find a buyer for the property at $2,500 an acre because no one wants to gamble on the dangers that come with it,” Urdal said.
Urdal has a federal handgun license and never travels around the border region without carrying his gun for self protection.
“And when I head out into ranch country, I have more than one gun with me,” he adds. “I have known seven friends who conduct business in Mexico regularly that are missing. They crossed over the border and never came back. Most of these disappearances go unreported. You hear about a few of them, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
Urdal says he is not opposed to legal immigration and understands why Mexican workers and families want to escape the violence in Mexico. It is not the workers or families that concern him but the escalating influx of criminals streaming across the border to extend their territory.
“I have never used an illegal drug in my life. But legalizing drugs may be the only way to take the sting out of the drug business. If there is no profit in it, the criminals would have no reason to deal the drugs in the first place. Instead of wasting money on a wall that doesn’t work, we need to put more boots on the ground and enforce the laws we have. But to be honest, we have already reached a point where even that may not stop the violence from bleeding over the border. I am not sure there is an answer to the problem,” Urdal admits.