Monday, June 07, 2010

Rancher has close-up view of immigration debate

Rancher Chip Johns calls a spacious, hacienda-style house in southwestern Doña Ana County home. He's lived there about 25 years, ever since selling the food processing plant he used to own in Santa Teresa and jumping into the ranching business. The 66-year-old said he's the nearest full-time county resident to the Mexican border, outside the urban center of El Paso. He said he doesn't feel extremely threatened by the undocumented immigrant traffic that crosses his ranch on a daily basis. He admitted the situation has its risks, but seemed resigned to accepting them. While Johns said the immigration problem doesn't seem especially bad at the moment in the county, he's concerned about what will happen because of the renewed focus on Arizona's border. He said he's worried immigrant traffic will shift toward New Mexico. "When they close the border at Arizona, like they're going to do, all those people are going to start coming this way," he said. Johns said he's concerned that a proposal for creating federally designated wilderness on acreage he ranches near the Potrillo Mountains, in the southwest corner of the county, would create an immigrant smuggling corridor because of prohibitions against vehicle travel in wilderness...more

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