Ranchers Add Ladders to Border Fences for Easier Access

A few Texas ranchers tired of costly repairs to cattle fences damaged by illegal immigrants have installed an easier route over the U.S.-Mexican border — ladders.

"It's an attempt to get them to use the ladders instead of tearing the fences," said Scott Pattinson, who owns one of a group of ranches known as La Copa.

La Copa is just south of a U.S. Border Patrol highway checkpoint that went up 75 miles from the border several years ago, sending migrants through the brambly scrub of nearby ranches instead.

Some immigrants walk for hours or days to skirt the checkpoints in temperatures hovering around 100 degrees. Their feet have worn visible paths through a forest of cactus and mesquite otherwise thick enough to conceal them from Border Patrol helicopters overhead and agents only a few hundred yards away.

The paths lead from one ripped-down section of fencing to another. Texas ranches can be so large it could be days before owners notice the hole in the fence, long after the livestock possibly escapes.

Paul Johnson protects his 2,700-acre exotic game ranch of zebras, scimitar-horned oryx and wildebeests with about 10 miles of high wire fence, and joined his neighbors in placing ladders along the way.

But apparently some immigrants think the ladders are too good to be true.

"They ignore it a lot," Johnson said. "They're afraid that they're monitored by the Border Patrol."

Johnson plans to take the ladders down, worried about the message he's sending.

"I think what it does is give a signal that we are wanting them to cross there, don't mind the crossing, and that kind of magnifies the problem," he said.

Rancher Michael Vickers never liked the ladder idea and instead has ringed his fence with 220 volts of electricity.

"I've had a dose of it myself, it's not fun," he said. "That's just my attitude, why make it easier for them to trespass?"