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How ranchers say Trump’s wall would change the border

Ranchers in Arizona have seen plenty of changes along the southern U.S. border over the years. But they say their biggest concern is not immigration, but a rise in drug and human trafficking. We hear their story in a new multimedia series produced by USA Today Network called “The Wall,” which explores how President Trump’s proposed wall might affect those along the border.

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    Now we continue our look at the Southern U.S. border, a series in partnership with the USA TODAY NETWORK.

    Titled "The Wall," it explores the complex world of those who live along the border, and how President Trump's proposed wall might affect them.

    Tonight, a visit to some ranches in Arizona whose owners have seen plenty of changes over the decades.

  • JOHN LADD, San Jose  Ranch:

    Well there's probably no better way to grow up than growing up on a ranch.

    By God, there's a cow.

    But growing up on the border, it was just interesting to never really see or hear or think of anybody being out there in that remote ranch. And then, as I was getting older, I realized there's 200, 300 people a night going through there.

  • DAVE LOWELL, Atascosa Ranch:

    Backtracking to a time, say, 30 years ago, there was a steady flow of illegals coming through the ranch. And they usually would ask if we could give them a couple of days' work.


    Whether or not they were going to go further north or not, but they'd come over and work for you. And there was nothing extraordinary about it. It wasn't a big deal to go across the line. It wasn't a big deal for them to come over here.

    And then, in the '80s, it started changing. It was 300 a month. And every one of them wanted a drink of water and directions.


    And we always did. We kept a can of spam and bread.


    Then, in the '90s, it was 300 a day. And they just stole stuff and broke stuff and truck stolen, cars stolen, saddles. Had two horses stolen. Got one back. But what's happened since the mid-2000s is the cartels took over the human trade, as well as the drug trade.

    That's what the whole border's about now, is just money. It isn't about immigration. It's about smuggling.


    Smugglers are not people you want to run into in the middle of the ranch.

    We think, on our ranch, there were six murders on the ranch itself. We have a tree that was previously called locally a rape tree. A high percentage of the women are raped in the process of crossing the border.

    And their underwear is draped on trees to demonstrate how macho the Mexican was that led them across the border. It takes a particular bad mind-set to do things like.


    Yes, they cut both sides in.

    Down here a little bit, they were — well, here it is. They're just cutting it tall enough to get a truck through. Instead of cutting all the way up, they do it here. Wouldn't need a ladder.

    These are concrete, but they're no rebar. So they'd score the edge of it, and then put a tow strap, and break it. So I haven't had any positive effect from having a fence.

    We have got permanent cameras. We got radar units. We got portable cameras. And none of that has worked, because there isn't enough Border Patrol to respond to the traffic that's coming through it.

    This isn't a humanitarian deal anymore. You know, this is securing the border. And you have to act like it's a military exercise.

  • REED THWAITS, Atascosa Ranch:

    Yes, there's definitely two sides to it. Yes, there definitely is. The two sides are what we did today, working outside with my hands and actually producing something every day.

    I don't know. It's kind of living the dream. I mean, that's what I always wanted to do, so that's what I do. It doesn't get — it doesn't get a whole lot — a whole lot better than that, so…

    The other side of that is the — you know, there's criminals coming through here and smuggling drugs and smuggling people, all the criminal activity that goes along with it.


    We're waiting with interest to see what happens with President Trump. The number of illegals coming through now is — there's been a big drop at the time of Trump's election.


    This is the best it's been in 30 years.


    And you can find additional videos and stories at TheWall.USAToday.com.

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