Joe Metz, a straight-talking Texas rancher on the U.S.-Mexico border, awoke recently to find 50 cows roaming freely in his front yard. Undocumented immigrants, he says, left a gate open as they crossed his land, which abuts the Rio Grande.
For years, he's witnessed migrants and drug smugglers touch American soil for the first time on his property.
"We deal with this every day," he said.
But as a rancher in Hidalgo County, he also knows firsthand the need for labor to keep producers in the Rio Grande Valley operating. The traffic through his land frustrates him -- particularly the potentially dangerous drug traffic -- but he acknowledges that most crossers are looking for opportunity.
It is an open secret that many of these undocumented immigrants will indeed find jobs in the local economy.
More than 1,700 miles away, U.S. lawmakers are engaged in their own debate over how to balance security concerns and immigrant labor needs.
The Senate has proposed one solution in the form of a sweeping immigration bill that the chamber passed last month. Border security figures prominently in that bill, and is also a priority for members of the House, where the debate has moved.
Those who live and work on the border say there is a disconnect between the debate in Washington and the realities on the ground.
Voices of the border communities
Miles of border fencing built by the federal government -- actually a levy that was cut in half and reinforced with concrete to form a wall -- run across Metz's property near Mission, Texas. Two 40-foot gaps exist in the barrier so that workers can access all parts of the ranch, but there are no gates, creating a funnel for migrants and traffickers to cross.
Metz's experiences make him hawkish on beefing up the border, but he doesn't just want more border patrol agents. He wants to see work permits granted the millions of undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
The agriculture industry in the Rio Grande Valley depends on immigrant labor, he said.
"They (the government) just need to face up to the situation and give all these people work permits," Metz said.
Migrants will keep coming across the border as long as there is work and a chance to make money, the rancher said.
"Farmers need the help, no doubt about that, because nobody wants to do the work," said Jimmie Steidinger, a farmer and agricultural producer, in Donna, Texas.
For those whose lands are traversed by migrants, the biggest concern is drug traffickers, more so than economic migrants, he said.
Putting undocumented immigrants on a path to citizenship would provide not just more able hands, but the relief of knowing who is crossing the border, he said.
For others, securing the border is not about how many boots are on the ground.
Border security means that people on both sides of the boundary feel safe, said Michael Seifert, coordinator of the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network. That is not the case, he said.
The Equal Voice Network represents 11 community-based organizations focused on the area's poorest residents.
To many of these residents, the border patrol is something threatening, Seifert said.
Reports of heavy-handedness by border agents -- including use of force -- has bred mistrust among some border residents.
In one case in Arizona last year, a border patrol agent shot and killed an adolescent who had been throwing rocks alongside several others at the border. The border patrol confirmed that agents were being assaulted with rocks and that after verbal warnings to stop, one agent fired his service weapon.
Many in the community hear the stories of alleged beatings or use of stun guns by border agents and have become wary of their presence.
"We have a completely different perception" than outsiders, Seifert said.