On 8,000 acres of rugged, desert-like, thorny, brush-covered land abutting the Anacacho Mountains, rancher Cole Hill manages a cattle operation and a private hunting operation.
Hill spent most of last year chasing illegal border crossers off his property and fixing the destruction they left in their wake—broken fences, busted water lines, trash everywhere, and blatant, unashamed breaking and entering.
Regarding their location, Hill said, “And that’s one of the craziest parts about the amount of foot traffic that we’re getting is that, if you could see that little mountain range or those hills they have to come over right before they fall off into our place, it’s nothing that you would want to walk through. It’s just ugly. It’s a desert. It’s rough. It’s full of rattlesnakes. It’s dangerous.”
Living on the ranch with his wife and three young children since 2015, Hill estimated that he had come across 20 illegal border crossers prior to 2021. However, hundreds have traversed the ranch this past year.
“On January 20, 2021, [Biden’s Inauguration] I had the first illegal of the year,” said Hill. “And then it just spiraled out of control after that. Currently, we are still facing groups of illegals. It’s slowed down a little bit. From March through August-September, it was daily traffic, multiple groups a day sometimes. And in a week’s time, we’d have sometimes 60–70 plus illegals that I knew of cutting across the ranch.”
Hill has dealt with a multitude of effects from the illegal border crossings, particularly with safety issues, but also including the inability to maintain a ranch hand in this kind of hostile environment.
“He [former ranch hand] had illegals show up at his house [on the property] a time or two,” said Hill. “And he was here at the beginning of the year when the traffic started ramping up and then he ended up leaving kind of shortly after, right when all of this started going crazy. So that is probably the first detriment that I experienced. You know, people don’t necessarily want to come work where you might get your truck stolen out from underneath you, your house broken into while you’re in it sleeping in the middle of [the] night.”
After the ranch hand left, Hill had to traverse the 8,000 acres pretty much on a day–to–day basis alone, checking and fixing the myriad of destruction left by the illegal trespassers.
“I run a little over 100 head of cows over here and they’ve been getting out on neighbors properties, or on highway 90 all year long,” said Hill. “Because these illegals cut the fence and you know, they could care less what kind of destruction or damage they’re doing to our property. They’re just cutting the fence to make it easier for them to walk through in large groups. And they leave the fence or gates, they’ll cut, you know, cut a chain or a lock on the gate, and just leave it wide open and then I’ve got livestock getting out.”
The property damage has cost Hill’s ranch tens of thousands of dollars just to mitigate some of it—like patching fences, since a fence is permanently compromised after being cut—and cleaning up after the fact.
Rather than spending the year improving the property in various ways and doing maintenance tasks, Hill said, “I basically was just running around, fixing fence and chasing illegals out of houses, fixing water lines and water troughs where they come through and just take a rock and smash the pipe that comes up out of the ground or just grab it and snap it off to fill up their water jugs. And I’m left with just a mess—broken water, broken water lines and cattle out of water, deer out of water. Basically [I] just spent all year going around fixing everything that they broke or at least trying to get around the ranch and be proactive checking things and just trying to defend against this invasion, which is genuinely what it is.”
There had been no recourse for Hill to receive any sort of recompense for the thousands of dollars worth of property damage done until DPS and Kinney County began prosecuting criminal trespass charges on individuals caught.
Prior to that point, Hill recalled an incident with Border Patrol when he had pictures, from game cameras, of illegals cutting his fences. Though Border Patrol caught the offenders, they then refused to levy any sort of legal charges against them, essentially telling Hill to lawyer up or leave it be.
Hill and his fellow Kinney County ranchers are chafing at the injustices allowed by the federal and even the state government.
“It really doesn’t feel good when you’re just getting trampled on on a daily basis by illegals, who are criminals by definition, not including whatever type of criminal records they actually have,” said Hill. “You know, we’re getting trampled on on a daily basis by them and there’s really nothing we can do about it other than maybe a trespassing charge.”
In February, Hill and his family were busy preparing for the incoming freeze. Hill and his 8-year-old son were gathering firewood on the property when his wife called.
“And my wife called and said, ‘Hey, you need to get home now. There’s illegals all over the place. They’re surrounding the house. They’re beating on the door. They’re banging on the windows. Get home now.”
Hill threw his son in the truck. “We flew across the ranch and made it home and there was still one on my front porch when I got there. But the rest of them had run off and gotten into my garage to hide.”
Now, with the knowledge of hindsight, Hill said, “I wish I would have done a little more to make a statement right then and there, you know, to these guys, but I didn’t. I just promptly removed him from my porch and out of my yard and got the rest of them out of my garage and sent them away.”
Without a clue that this would become a daily or weekly occurrence, Hill recalled the reactions of his children.
“That moment right there, I mean it’s, it scared my kids to death, my daughter was in our back room of our house in the den and she was just coloring, working on some little art project or something and she just happened to look out the window and see a man standing there with his hands cupped over, looking into the window at her. And then next thing you know there were five or six more walking up and knocking on the windows and then banging on the doors and stuff like that and it just scared the heck out of them.”
Before 2021, Hill’s kids enjoyed the freedom that having 8,000 acres of backyard brings to a child—riding around on their four-wheelers and bikes and playing unsupervised. Now, Hill says, “Nobody out here can do that anymore. Because you really never know, if you’re not outside with the kids, or if you leave just once, or turn around for just one second… We’ve had groups of illegals pop up, just like that out of nowhere and, you know, trying to get to or into the house.”
Needless to say, this is not how Hill foresaw his kids’ childhood. Hill and his wife began taking precautions, including constantly traveling the ranch armed. “Obviously we have guns, we’re ranchers. But I’ve never in my life packed a gun on my person on a daily basis, ever, until now.”
This precaution carries over to the kids as well.
“My kids already halfway knew how to shoot a gun before that, but now they are very well educated on how to run pretty much every firearm in our house. And we would have never felt like, the only reason that we’ve trained them like that is genuinely because now there is a real threat of illegals trying to get into our house whether or not we’re there.”
There are five houses on the ranch property: Hill’s, the ranch hand’s, the owners, and two guest houses. Hill said, “Every other house on the ranch has been broken into. They break windows, they kick in doors. They’ve tried to steal some of the trucks. They tried to steal guns out of my boss’s house. I’ve pulled up to the ranch hands house one day, just to check on it, and there they were barbequing. It was a group of illegals outside that broke into the house, stole a bunch of meat out of the freezer, and fired up the grill. And one of them was trying to hotwire the truck and the other ones were standing around the grill cooking.”
Hill says that traffic on the ranch has slowed some over the winter months and believes DPS efforts—as part of Operation Lone Star—to the west and south of the ranch have reduced the number of trespassers.
However, illegal border crossers are still trespassing as Hill confirmed on January 10, 2022. After finding a deer blind on his property full of trash and empty beer cans, Hill discovered a neighbor’s camp house had been broken into and the trespassers had stolen food, beer, a pair of nice binoculars, and the keys to the UTV—which Hill found abandoned at the junction of the two properties.
The “individual rights [we have] as Americans and as Texans as far as property rights and stuff are getting trampled on,” Hill says. When he and a few buddies caught a group of illegals on the property, they told them to sit down and called DPS. “The next morning, I got a phone call from one of the higher-ups at DPS telling me that I couldn’t do that and that I could be charged with kidnapping— seven counts of kidnapping—for holding those guys there.”
According to Hill, the situation in Kinney County is not good for anyone, including the women and children being smuggled in by coyotes. He spoke of two women that had been found on, or just next to the ranch at different times, one lying with a broken leg, both left to die without food or water in the unforgiving Texas heat by their coyotes.
“The only people who’s making [money]—the cartels, the coyotes, the smugglers—it’s nothing but bad guys making ridiculous amounts of money off of it. And they’re treating their people that they’re smuggling… They don’t care for them at all. They’re treating them just like animals essentially, or cargo,” said Hill.
Hill has a message for all Americans.
“Under the current administration, illegal aliens have more rights than the American citizens do… I would have Americans know that just because it’s not happening in their backyard. It’s coming to their backyard. I can tell you from the people that I’ve seen on our ranch this year, that these are not good people that are coming.”
“I guarantee you, those of us who live down here where it’s happening first on the front line, we know it, we see it. It’s just gonna take a little while before it begins to manifest elsewhere.”