By Jon Dougherty

Americans living along the U.S.-Mexico border say they increasingly fear retaliation from human and drug smuggling cartels if they report their criminal activity to authorities.

In interviews with the Washington Examiner, more than a half-dozen residents who live between 30 and 50 miles from the border said calling for help if they’ve been burglarized or if they found a potential illegal migrant sleeping in one of their barns can lead to potentially dangerous consequences.

The site reported:

Billy Darnell, a cattle rancher in Hidalgo County who has lived in the region more than 70 years, said he calls in every incident but has paid the price for informing Border Patrol and the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department.

“I turned in 700 pounds [of marijuana] up here … I called it in [to Border Patrol]. They went and got it. That night, they [smugglers] came back. They … broke off all the floats off my troughs — chopped ’em up, drained all of it,” Darnell said, adding groups of 12 men carry heavy packs filled with marijuana through the region.

Cammi Moore, a cattle rancher and farmer who lives about 50 miles north of the border in Animas, also worries about whether to report illegal activity.

“You don’t know whether to call them [suspected criminals] or not, if they are packing ’cause there is retaliation on some families,” she said.

She recounted the story of Bob Krentz, a prominent rancher in nearby Cochise County, Ariz., who left to go check on his cattle in 2010 and never came back; many locals suspect he was murdered by people working for one of the cartels.

Kris Massey of Animas told the news site:

My house is maybe 100 yards from my barn. One time, I found a hand-drawn map that I turned over to the sheriff’s department that listed every … water tank from south all the way to my house. And my barn was marked with a big X. And they even labeled it ‘Massey barn.’ So, they’re pretty informed on what they’re doing. And this is literally on the highway, so you know what they’re doing out here in the pastures, and you find bundles of drugs in your field when you’re harvesting — backpack size.

Other residents told similar stories. Some said they believe the cartels have hired spotters along smuggling routes to warn of impending trouble like Border Patrol or other law enforcement.

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    “Most of those peaks you’ll find batteries, lot of wire, cell phones,” said Tricia Elbrock, a business owner and Animas resident. “And what they’re doing is they’re spotting for the loads.”

    Meanwhile, congressional negotiators are working to hammer out an agreement to continue funding the government through the remainder of the year after a 21-day stopgap funding measure signed by POTUS Donald Trump expires Feb. 15.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said she won’t allow any measure on the floor for a vote that contains funding for a border wall or barrier, as the president — and many in her own party — want.

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