Over 600 ranchers listened to the emotional recitation by Trisha Elbrock of the kidnapping of her ranch hand at the “Calling Washington Home to the Border” event in Animas, New Mexico. The petite businesswoman recounted in detail the nightmare her family and employees endured due to the actions of desperate drug smugglers from Mexico.
Elbrock’s family owns a water and septic company that provides services to the many residents living along the U.S. Mexico border. The Arizona Daily Independent reported in December 2015, that New Mexico State Police along with the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation began an investigation into the kidnapping of one of Elbrock’s employees.
According to the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office, the employee was on a ranch in the Animas area when he observed a parked vehicle with two men inside. The employee stopped to see what was going on. The men said their vehicle was broken down, and they then forced him to drive them to Willcox, Arizona in his vehicle. The employee reported that he drove the two to Willcox, and the kidnappers told him not to report anything because they would have someone watching him.
Elbrock provided disturbing details of the encounter. According to Elbrock, the drug smugglers had gotten their car stuck and hijacked both the worker and his truck to try and get their vehicle out of the ditch. When that failed they simply dumped thousands of dollars in equipment out of his vehicle and loaded their drugs into it before driving off with the Elbrock’s employee still in their custody.
While Elbrock was very grateful no one was hurt; the incident has cause great financial distress. Elbrock asked the audience, “How do you fill out a Workman’s Compensation claim for kidnapping?” After the audience’s nervous laughter subsided, Elbrock reported that apart from the paperwork headaches, she now has difficulty providing services to border residents because her workers are reluctant to go near the area.
Elbrock has battled her insurance company, and now wonders what might happen to her premiums after having to file claims related to kidnapping.
“We have tough issue here. OSHA says we have to provide a safe working environment for our employees. How are we going to do that when they are out here in this drug infested part of our country?” Elbrock continued, “And how many of you who are here that think our border is secure?”
She told the audience that when she was asked by a television reporter out of New Mexico if she thought the border was secure, she responded, “No it is not.” When the reporter told her that New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich thinks it is secure, Elbrock responded, “I said the senator was wrong and maybe he should come down here and visit with us. I am going to invite him to come down here and all of our representatives to come down here and visit with us, live with us, work with us,” said Elbrock to loud applause as Heinrich’s representative at the event slunk down in his chair. “Walk the border and see what happens here. We need to get the word out to our public and let them know we have problems here. I go talk to other places that say they didn’t know it was that bad. It is. They don’t want it known.”
Like the other panelists, Elbrock stated that it was her desire was to see more of Border Patrol agents at the border rather than out on the highways and roads fifty miles away. She criticized the sensors that Border Patrol uses, saying that they are virtually useless because it takes too long for agents in the field to respond. According to other ranchers, the response time can be anywhere between three or more hours.
Rather than just having more agents, Elbrock and others call for a specific kind of agent. “We need more horsemen. There is so much terrain out there that they can’t access in ATVs, and other vehicles. We need to double the size of the horse patrol,” She also advocated for more helicopters and hounds in the field. “Root them out. He,” she said referring to a rancher in the crowd, “is a good costumer of ours. Our employee was kidnapped on his ranch. We gotta secure that border and he is having to rethink how his cowboys go on the ranch by themselves. It has to stop. We have to come together. We have to work with Border Patrol and police. We all have our opinions that we have to get past. We have to come together and solve this problem. We need the government to help us. But do they want to help us? I don’t know.” Elbrock concluded, “It doesn’t seem like they want this to stop.”