Brackettville businesses, land owners struggling with human smuggling

‘Are they going to run through my property or they’re going to hide in behind my house?’

One business owner in Kinney County tells KSAT's Leigh Waldman that the human smuggling rise in the area has changed their whole way of life in Brackettville..

BRACKETTVILLE, Texas – People who call Kinney County home are feeling the effects of human smuggling they say it has changed their whole way of life in Brackettville.

Ziggy’s Roadside BBQ serves up the classic and good conversations between Kinney County neighbors.

“Everybody supports everybody,” Isabel Zigmond said.

The restaurant’s dining area is filled with law enforcement for the afternoon rush.

“You hear sirens, you know, and you already know what it is. It’s not an accident. It’s, you know, rarely somebody falling or whatever. It’s smuggling,” Zigmond said.

Isabel Zigmond and her husband have owned Ziggy’s since 2013. When they came to Brackettville they said they felt safe, but that’s changed with the rise of human smuggling.

“All these people are running through and I mean, really, they don’t care who they hit or, you know, what happens,” Zigmond said.

She said there have been several bailouts around their restaurant, including a person who was found hiding in their wood pile.

The bailouts and pursuits have become so common her 7-year-old grandson is afraid of the main roads.

“He makes me take the back roads because he’s afraid of taking the main roads, because he knows that those people don’t have any regard for human life,” she said.

Todd Tate and Gene Slate, who work for county appraisal district, said landowners across the county tell them they’re fed up with the effects of smuggling on their properties.

“I know of one landowner that suffered over $100,000 in damages on his fences in one week. And it’s just they’re overwhelmed,” Tate, the county’s chief appraiser said.

It’s not just people passing through. They say smuggled kids are being abandoned on the ranchland.

“Five little girls were abandoned on the side of the river. The oldest being seven. The youngest one was an 11-month-old,” he said.

Another rancher tells them he was forced to move his livestock because of holes cut into fences. Water well damage has also been reported in the area.

“Leaving valves open or busting pipe,s and that kind of stuff. But wells are also getting affected because they’re pulling the wiring out of the wells to try to get their cellphones charged,” Tate said.

If this pace keeps up, Tate fears ranchers could leave the area entirely, damaging the local economy along with it.

Tate said the increase of human smuggling is a strain on taxpayers who call Kinney County home.

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About the Authors:

Leigh Waldman is a news reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

Gavin Nesbitt is a photojournalist and video editor who joined KSAT in September 2021. He has traveled across the great state of Texas to film, conduct interviews and edit many major news stories, including the White Settlement church shooting, Hurricane Hanna, 2020 presidential campaigns, Texas border coverage and the Spurs.