A South Texas rancher filed a lawsuit in federal court after reportedly finding a surveillance camera installed on his ranch. The rancher claims Border Patrol agents and a Texas Ranger trespassed and installed the camera without his permission.
Ricardo D. Palacios filed suit against the Laredo Sector’s Chief Mario Martinez and a Texas Ranger. The rancher claims the law enforcement officials entered his property despite his giving notice otherwise, the San Antonio Express-News reported.
Human smugglers frequently use ranches in South Texas as a means to circumnavigate their human cargo around Border Patrol checkpoints. The dangerous marches in the arid ranchlands regularly put illegal immigrants’ lives at risk. Frequently, the cartel-connected human smugglers will abandon their “cargo” when a person becomes injured, dehydrated, or otherwise cannot keep up, Breitbart Texas has reported.
“Everyone has a reasonable right to privacy and a right to private property,” Palacios’ attorney Raul Casso told the San Antonio newspaper. “That right is protected with laws against trespassing and unwarranted police intrusions. In this case, to add insult to injury, they have a camera that they secretly stuck in a tree, watching over 24/7, on property they were not even supposed to be on.”
However, the newspaper also reported that U.S. law allows immigration officers to access private lands in the border regions for the purposes of patrolling the border and areas within 25 miles of the border. The law excludes officials from entering homes during such patrols.
Palacios claims his ranchlands are outside that patrol region. The rancher is claiming emotional distress and seeks $500,000 plus punitive damages and attorneys fees.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office will defend the State of Texas in the lawsuit. His office and Border Patrol officials have declined comment on the pending litigation.
Palacios claims the recently discovered camera is part of Operation Drawbridge. The project is operated by the Texas Department of Public Safety’s effort to create a “virtual wall.” At least 4,000 cameras have been purchased by DPS, the San Antonio newspaper reported. Law enforcement officers at the Texas Border Security Operations Center in Austin and six other Joint Operations Intelligence Centers monitor the cameras which cost about $300 each.
Palacios claims that every part of his ranch is at least 27 miles from the nearest point on the Rio Grande River border with Mexico.