It bothers me when I hear Its the federal governments job ... We live here."
Texas Insider Report: HIDALGO Texas
The water level varies a lot depending on the time of year. Theres been times when you could walk from that (Mexico) side to this (U.S.) side on the bottom of the riverbed" says Othal Brand Jr.
Weve had trafficking ... when it first started it was mostly drug trafficking human trafficking. And then it turned to children families
Last year we found eight bodies in the river here. Four of them had no heads. None of them drowned." says Brand
who is president of the Hidalgo County Water Improvement District 3 and whose father was mayor of McAllen Texas for 20 years
in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley.
Partly thanks to Brand and the Water Districts efforts the District 3 pumping facility may be the most secure section along the 1896-mile Rio Grande River
It is the main provider of drinking water for the City of McAllen and its approximately 135000 residents
The Water Improvement District 3 is one of 26 water districts along the Rio Grande.
It bothers me when I hear Its the federal governments job. Or when people say Oh thats Border Patrols job. Nah ... We live here."
Before Gov. Rick Perry announced Monday that he would direct the State of Texas to activate up to 1000
Texas National Guard troops to the border Brand and others had called on him to do so for years.
Several of my men have been shot at over the last two years and the first time it happened we told them we couldnt protect them said Brand.
To hear him tell it Brands and the communitys actions speak more to a local version of protecting their land than to a show of firepower or might.
When we first came down here we put in security lights. Then we came back and put in cameras. We put in towers with cameras. Then we put in the boat ramp and we put in most anything & everything we could possibly think of.
This boat ramp is an area that we give access to ... to the Federal Border Patrol and other agencies in the state the county and the cities. They access the river from here for their patrolling and its been a good partnership in securing our area.
My men built that boat ramp about three years ago after they were shot at" says Brand. Its the only boat ramp on a 20-mile stretch of the river.
Then Border Patrol came and put in their portable towers and that was helpful extremely helpful Brand said.
It was the first time they told us that in this section they had actually put towers on the embankment of the river and that was probably the first time we had a major slowdown of if not stopping of traffic.
U.S. Border Patrol the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) as well as Texas Parks & Wildlife personnel are now more often parked overlooking the Rio Grande.
We used to have trafficking every day. But our traffic here right now is zero. Thats because weve put up cameras which we give the Border Patrol access to. Weve put in paths and roads Ive cleared a staging area for them. We have Wi-Fi backup power. At night its lit like a Christmas tree out there.
Weve made our area friendly for law enforcement. It has absolutely stopped the traffic."
But Brand says he realizes not every place along the Rio Grande can be secured like his pump station and that no one solution can fix the border crisis.
I used to know most of the Border Patrol guys by name. But now you have guys transferred here from other states most of them are from everywhere but Texas."
The manpower is strong at the pump station because of the $1.3 million-per-week surge in law enforcement operations ordered
last month by Texas Gov. Rick Perry Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst & House Speaker Joe Straus last month.
When Brand 61 was growing up here on the Rio Grande it wasnt like this. Having lived in McAllen since 1955 he remembers well playing in the river camping & barbecuing.
When drug violence exploded in the last decade Brand said he began to lose his sense of security. This issue has brought us together the farmers the ranchers and the people on the river" he says.
Border Patrol agents say the number of unaccompanied children in their custody fell from a high of more than 3300 in June to around 700 last week.
Texas and the Rio Grande sector is the shortest distance to Central America" Brand said. You stop the traffic and the minute you leave and divert resources elsewhere they come back."