Skip to comments."I Watch My Back" (Illegals Attacking Oil Field Workers-Texas)
Posted on 07/25/2005 7:54:21 PM PDT by The South Texan
I Watch My Back July 25,2005 Cari Hammerstrom The Monitor
Oil and gas workers report attacks by undocumented immigrants
Aurelio and Carolyn Talamantez, along with their trusty chow dog, Arcas, hunker down in the shade beneath the awning of a small trailer and watch cars whiz by on a deserted stretch of U.S. Highway 83 for most of the day.
Judging by their log book, they are only occasionally interrupted by the workers at H&Ps Rig 142 going to and from their job drilling for natural gas on the Ridge Crest Dominguez Ranch, a roughly 1,500-acre tract of land bordered on the south by Falcon Lake.
The Talamantezes are the gatekeepers, the protectors of private property. Only those cleared by one of the oil and natural gas companies can enter at least through this gate.
Past the gate, a dirt road goes on for about a mile, maybe less, through a few more gates and over two or three cattle guards up to the rig. It is surrounded by some scrub brush, an arroyo to the north, and land as far as the eye can see to the south.
"Look right here, you can see Mexico," said Frank Harris, a drilling consultant hired by the Houston Exploration Company to look after the companys oil and natural gas interests. He pointed past the white lattice derrick to the horizon.
He thought out loud: "Only five or six miles away?"
Although the rig itself is bustling with activity 24 hours a day, seven days a week, workers say its the trip to the rig that is isolated and, as some have experienced, dangerous.
One confirmed attack on an oil worker, allegedly by undocumented immigrants, and several other rumored attacks have these men watching their backs, especially because one attack is said to have been committed by gang members with notorious ties the Mara Salvatruchas of El Salvador.
The "Maras" are no strangers to law enforcement officials in South Texas. Lester Rivera-Paz, the reputed leader of the Mara Salvatrucha gang, was caught in Falfurrias in February, having illegally re-entered the country. Agencies also met this month in Harlingen to share intelligence about the reportedly violent group.
According to an e-mail sent to numerous drilling rig workers around the end of April, an electronics technician from the Schlumberger oil company stopped to open a gate 11 miles north of State Highway 44 on U.S. Highway 83 when he was approached by a group of 15 to 20 illegal immigrants.
The e-mail reads: "The ET (electronics technician) retreated to his vehicle and locked his doors. The lead member of the group attempted entry into the vehicle by pulling down the drivers window. The window was rolled down 2 to 3 inches. The remainder of the group surrounded the vehicle and attempted entry through the passenger doors, side door and rear door of the van. All doors were locked preventing their entry. The Schlumberger ET was able to persuade the group to back away from the vehicle, allowing him to return to the highway."
The technician retreated to a nearby rest area and contacted the U.S. Border Patrol.
The reported writer of the e-mail, Desmond Reese a "boss" of some sort for Schlumberger then wrote that a Border Patrol Laredo North Sector liaison agent contacted him with the following information:
"Several members of the group apprehended are members of the Mara Salvatrucha gang from El Salvador and other parts of Central America. The Mara Salvatrucha gang has moved into the Laredo border region and has set up an organized human smuggling and narcotics trafficking operation. Gang members leading the groups are to be considered dangerous and they are often armed. The Mara Salvatrucha is assisting cartel members in N. Mexico escape to the U.S. in order to evade the Mexican army, which has on going anti-gang/narcotics operations in the Nuevo Laredo area."
Natural gas drillers on Rig 142 who were willing to comment were well aware of this particular e-mail. They said they each had received it in their in-boxes or had heard of it from a friend.
"We take it pretty seriously," said Mark Downing, a Schlumberger service hand.
"I watch my back," said Kelley Ottis, a mud engineer working for MISWACO, a drilling fluids company.
The e-mail even made its way to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and was "distribute(d) to the border parks as an FYI," said Tom Harvey, a spokesman for TPWD. However, there have not been any reports of aggressive illegal immigrant activity on state land, he said.
Vito Ramirez, assistant chief patrol agent for the Border Patrols Laredo sector, confirmed that the incident involving the electronics technician did happen April 26. But the Border Patrol denies that any Mara Salvatruchas were in the group that allegedly tried to carjack the electronics technician.
"We had no aliens in the group that were Mara Salvatruchas," Ramirez said.
The Monitor, wishing to resolve the conflicting reports, filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Border Patrols Laredo Sector on May 16.
The sector said it forwarded the request to the National Records Center in Missouri, and a FOIA officer in Washington, D.C., said that if the office in Missouri hadnt gotten around to processing the request by June 16, the day the Border Patrol changed its way of handling public information requests, the letter would have been forwarded to Washington. The FOIA officer claimed she had not yet seen the request and that a three- to four-month backlog of requests had to be handled first.
Washington-based U.S. Customs and Border Protection Border Patrol spokesman Mario Villarreal reports that approximately 90 members of Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, have been apprehended nationwide since Oct. 1, 2004. More than a third, or 39, have been caught in the Rio Grande Valley Sector, he said. As for the Laredo Sector, which encompasses 116 Texas counties and covers more than 100,000 square miles, 43 of the 90 gang members were apprehended there.
The Central American gang has become a concern for the Border Patrol lately, Villarreal said.
"We werent tracking them before. Now we are," he said.
While U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Nina Pruneda said the number of MS-13 gang members that agency picks up is only a handful, because ICE concerns itself with interior enforcement and not apprehensions at the border, South Texas is a definite entry point for the gang.
"Weve had information that some of the MS-13 are transiting through here, but are also trying to establish roots in the local San Antonio area," said Pruneda from the agencys San Antonio office.
Mara Salvatruchas or not, the Zapata rig workers said aggressive attacks by illegal immigrants have not been limited to this one incident.
There was another Schlumberger employee who got hit over the head at a gate and passed out, said Downing, the service hand. When he awoke, his wallet and his truck were gone.
He alleges the culprit or culprits belonged to a group of undocumented immigrants.
"Its been happening for years," he said.
"Ive never known of any attacks on a rig," said Harris, the drilling consultant. "They all happen on the roads going to the sites or at the gates."
Harris and Ottis, the mud engineer, said illegal immigrants commonly come by rigs and ask for food and water. They havent had any visits at this particular location in Zapata, but Downing said he encountered a bunch of "Guats" a slang term Downing used to describe Guatemalans who walked all the way up the coast from Brownsville to the Kenedy Ranch.
"Their hands were stained from the (prickly) pear," he said.
Still, its not so much the innocent immigrants looking for work who worry the rig workers as it is the ones looking for trouble although they use caution with any stranger they might encounter on the isolated ranches along the border.
Border security and illegal immigration have become such a point, Downing said, that he plans to volunteer his vacation to patrol with the Minuteman Project when it comes to Texas in October.
"You dont know who is coming across ... Weve got to protect our borders," he said.
AH, So! They are Korean?
This is starting to sound like what we went through with Cuba. Castro sent us all his viscious criminals...now we get the same gift from Vincente fox!
The issue seems to be getting some attention now. Here's an earlier thread with a link to a survey being pushed by Bill Frist.
They are not innocent if they are illegal.
Great site. I didn't know about it. Is there any way to post it as its own thread?
Comments from yesterday's post.