Rape Trees, Dead Migrants and the Consequences of an Unsecured Border

Body of Dead Migrant in Brooks County, Texas.
Breitbart Texas/Bob Price

Many of the most caring people in the U.S. think they are helping the poor from Latin America by leaving our Southwest border unsecured between ports-of-entry, but they are not. Several of the transnational criminal organizations (cartels) operating in Central America and Mexico make an estimated one-third or more of their profits from illegal immigration. Specifically, two groups below Texas, the Gulf and Los Zetas cartels, are largely fueled by the trafficking and smuggling of human beings.

The brutality of these criminal groups, from incinerating innocents in a network of ovens to their near complete control of state and local governments, is largely paid for by funds generated from illegal immigration–a shadowy economic engine that is only possible because we refuse to properly secure our border with Mexico.

Women and young girls from Central America are routinely given birth control or morning-after pills by their mothers in anticipation of the likely sexual assaults that will occur on their illicit journey to the United States.

These females are often raped immediately upon making it to their first stop once they arrive in a Mexican stash house from Guatemala. They then are shipped to the U.S.-Mexico border, usually to Reynosa, Mexico, immediately south of McAllen, Texas. In the process of making it from the first stash house to the second, the women and young girls are often sexually assaulted or raped again by the smuggler–or group of smugglers–taking them between the two locations. The sexual assaults and rapes then often happen again in the second Mexican stash house of their journey.

They are then trickled into the U.S. across the porous border and brought to a third stash house in a U.S. border town, usually in or near McAllen, Texas. They are often sexually assaulted or raped again by the operator of the stash house if they are deemed attractive by the criminals operating the clandestine facility. They are stockpiled until the cartel wants to send a large load of narcotics across the Rio Grande. The cartel then sends a large load of humans across in one area and then a drug load across in another.

Once the human beings are in Texas, another smuggler then picks up the women and young girls and drives them with a coyote to a point along Highway 281 just before the Border patrol checkpoint immediately south of Falfurrias, Texas. The checkpoint is approximately 85 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Rape trees

The women and young girls exit the vehicle with their coyote and attempt to make their way around the checkpoint. Most of the apprehended illegal migrants say they were told it would be a 30-minute hike and that they were given a gallon of water for their trip. The reality is that the hike usually takes 3-4 days. It is common for the coyote to sexually assault or rape the females on this stretch of the journey as well. These coyotes usually remove an article of clothing from the female they rape and they tie it tightly to a tree—a rape tree.

“The rape trees are a common practice in this area,” said Daniel Walden, a human trafficking investigator and instructor who founded a team of volunteer police officers who donate their time to help patrol in Brooks County, which is among Texas’ poorest counties. “The women are warned in Mexico that they likely will be raped and assaulted during the trafficking process. It is common for mothers to put their young daughters on the pill or some other form of contraception before sending them north.”

“Human trafficking is about the smuggler having power and control over their victims. The rape trees send a signal to those who follow about what will happen if you get out of line. The women are terrorized into submission,” Walden explained during an interview with Breitbart Texas. “While I have only seen one rape tree personally, we get reports from inside the ranches about them on a regular basis.”

Rape Tree

Articles of female clothing often left hanging on a “rape tree” as a trophy. (AP File Photo/Eric Gay)

Linda Vickers is one of those ranchers. Her ranch is located just north of the Border Patrol checkpoint south of Falfurrias. These smuggled aliens are led across her property on a regular basis.

“Many years ago, I used to see bras and women’s jeans hung in trees on our property, but I didn’t know why,” Vickers told Breitbart Texas in an interview on Saturday. “I do now.”

rape tree

A rape tree discovered on the Vicker’s ranch near Falfurrias, Texas. (File Photo Courtesy of Linda Vickers)

“It is common to find not only these rape trees but condoms as well,” the Texas rancher explained. “I find these rape trees and condoms to be unnerving and it is a reminder of the unsavory character of the criminal trespassers on my ranch. It makes me very angry.”

Vickers said she is often asked if she feels safe on the ranch she calls home. “I would not if not for my pistol, my own alertness to my surroundings and my K-9s,” she explained. “These dogs let me live a normal life out here without fear.”

The South Texas rancher recounted episodes on her ranch where they found groups of women and young girls. “These women and girls would huddle up together away from the men after the groups were captured,” Vickers said.

Norma and Delia, both from Mexico waiting for Border Patrol agents. (Photo Courtesy of Linda Vickers)

Norma and Delia (age 12), both from Mexico waiting for Border Patrol agents. (Photo Courtesy of Linda Vickers)

She described a scene where a Mexican woman named Norma had teamed up with a 12-year-old girl named Delia. They were not related but Norma had taken Delia under her wing to protect her. The two had become separated from their smugglers the day before being found on the Vicker’s ranch. “I thought it was nice of her to take care of the young girl as they were traveling through this very dangerous territory.”

The injured and tired left to die

Some of the women and young girls get hurt; an ankle gets sprained, a foot broken, or they simply get exhausted and can’t physically continue. They are then left to die by their coyote—and they often do. The county that the Falfurrias checkpoint is in is Brooks County. They have six deputies to patrol nearly 1,000 square miles. Forty-four bodies were found in the area in 2014 alone, with 129 found last year. Some are men, some are women, but all were left to die after an injury or the inability to keep up with the group they were traveling with.

Salvadoran woman left behind to die because she twisted her knee. (File Photo: Breitbart Texas/Bob Price)

The Salvadoran woman being interviewed by volunteer Brooks County deputy Daniel Walden was left behind to die in Brooks County because she twisted her knee. (File Photo: Breitbart Texas/Bob Price)

Some of the illegal migrants make their way to a road and get rescued by law enforcement, others are not so lucky and they are found dead under a tree, usually half-eaten by vultures and other animals. Some of the women and young girls are picked up by sex traffickers who patrol the area looking for vulnerable prey.

“The woman from El Salvador was very lucky that morning when we found her,” Walden said recalling the 2014 incident. “First she was lucky to find her way to a roadway where she could be discovered. The brushland all looks the same and experienced hikers get lost in minutes without navigational aids. The temperature that day was heading to the high 90’s and water is scarce.”

“She was also lucky it was us that found her and not one of the human trafficking coyotes in the area that routinely drive along this particular road,” the deputy continued. “They are looking for women just like her they can turn into sex slaves in one of Texas’ larger cities.”

The women and young girls who are lucky enough to get apprehended by law enforcement often refuse to talk about their assaults until much later. Many of them express fear for themselves or their families, as the coyotes have often threatened to kill them if the victim talks about the ordeal.

Breitbart Texas witnessed first-hand, the horrible deaths that befell many of the travelers through this region. The photo above is one of two Mexican men left to die along the trail after they became too weak to keep up. After receiving a 911 call at the Brooks County Sheriff’s office, Border Patrol BORSTAR rescue teams searched for more than a day to find the two men. The one pictured above was found first. About 12 hours later, the second man was found further up the trail.

Border Patrol Removes Dead Body

Border Patrol agents recover the body of a deceased migrant in Brooks County, Texas. (File Photo: Bob Price/Breitbart Texas)

In the Brooks County Sheriff’s Office, Chief Deputy Benny Martinez is no stranger to the death and suffering caused by our country’s unsecured border policy. His department’s small staff of deputies are routinely sent out to recover the remains of the victims or pick up the survivors. His very small and underfunded department is supplemented by the volunteer efforts of those like Walden and his Border Brotherhood of Texas volunteer deputies.

“Fortunately, because of the efforts of our deputies, the Border Patrol’s presence, help from the State of Texas with Texas Rangers, Department of Public Safety Troopers, and members of the Texas State Guard, the number of deaths this year is lower,” Martinez told Breitbart Texas in an interview. “We have worked hard to do as much as we can with the limited resources we have and have pushed state officials to send us help. The lives saved as a result speaks to how well our people are doing.”

Countless Border Patrol agents and county law enforcement officers from across the entire 1,994-mile Southwest border with Mexico have repeated their versions of these same stories—ad-nauseam. The journeys and time spent by Breitbart Texas in border communities from the coast of Texas to the coast of California all share commonality in that women and young girls are exploited in a similar fashion by the coyotes who bring them into the U.S. illegally. There are minor differences, dependent upon the region, but they all share the same core: Mexican cartels and the human smugglers to whom they lease routes exploit the porous U.S.-Mexico border and humanity’s most vulnerable always suffer the most.

Follow Breitbart Texas Managing Director Brandon Darby on Twitter: @brandondarby

Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas and is a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter: @BobPriceBBTX.


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