Times have changed in Texas. From migrant farm workers that flooded the Rio Grande Valley to aid in the harvest of the state’s fertile citrus groves and vegetable crops each year to Mexican ranch hands who, in some cases, have made a career out of working for the same rancher over the course of a generation mending fences, branding cows and participating in annual cattle roundups, cross-border workers have been an integrated and important part of the state’s farming and ranching industry past and present. 

You might say that when it comes to immigration reform, in many instances Texas farmers and ranchers have traditionally looked at the problem a little differently than most Americans, especially those geographically located on or near the southern border with Mexico.

Times have changed though with the advent of newer and more mechanized planting and harvesting technologies. Migrant farm workers play a less vital role in modern agriculture these days and many have been replaced with other types of border crossers, many of them illegally entering the U.S. and not all of them content with finding honest work. State and federal law enforcement officials say that some, in fact, are crossing the border as a part of organized criminal activity.

Citrus growers in the Rio Grande are the latest to be approached by federal, state and local law enforcement personnel promoting a campaign the U.S. Border Patrol is calling the Taking Care of Business Initiative, a program jointly organized by the Border Patrol; the Texas Attorney Generals Office;the Cameron, Willacy, Hidalgo and Starr County District Attorney's Offices and in cooperation with local Valley law enforcement agencies.

“This initiative is a proactive law enforcement approach that seeks to educate local business owners and operators of their role and responsibility in deterring criminal activity,” reports Enrique Mendiola, an information officer with the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector. “The campaign focuses on warehouses, hotels and motels, bus lines, and, in this case, farms and citrus operations that criminals might exploit as a base of operations to smuggle illegal aliens and narcotics.”