‘Vigilante’ Bob Maupin patrols his property in Boulevard, on the U.S.-Mexico border
By Jean Guerrero | KPBS
November 13, 2017
About ‘America’s Wall’
KPBS and inewsource partnered for this in-depth reporting project we’re calling “America’s Wall.” We were motivated by President Donald Trump’s call to spend billions of dollars to build a longer, more fortified wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
We wanted to know what that new and improved wall might mean for the people on both sides of the border, and we looked to facts from the past to tell the story.
Using previously undisclosed data from the federal government, we created an interactive map that shows every mile of the current wall along with when it was constructed. We layered that information with illegal immigration patterns and enforcement over the decades.
To read more about this collaboration, click here.
In a stucco house a quarter mile north of Mexico, a 78-year-old self-described “vigilante” with cropped silver hair and blue eyes prepared for a patrol of his property with two black labrador mixes, Shadow and Inky.
“I consider myself an American citizen. Most people don’t anymore,” Bob Maupin said. “I love my country, I believe in the Constitution. … It is my duty to protect the country from people invading it.”
He pulled on a camouflage hat and black gloves, buckled on a bulletproof vest and slung an AR-10 rifle over his shoulder.
“Come on, boys,” Maupin called out to his dogs.
They followed him out of his house in the tiny eastern San Diego County community of Boulevard, population about 460.
The southern edge of Maupin’s 250-acre property — a 15-minute walk from his house — is lined by two fences: his own and the U.S. government’s. Maupin placed his hand on the chain-link fence it took him five years to build and frowned at the government fence a few footsteps south of it.
The government fence is made of recycled helicopter landing mats from the Vietnam War. It stands about 10 feet tall. The ridges on the corrugated steel mats are horizontal, and can be gripped and balanced on by people attempting to scale the fence.
“It has steps in it, so they can walk and climb over,” Maupin said.
Cresting a small hill on his 250-acre ranch along the U.S.-Mexico border, 78-year-old Bob Maupin of Boulevard is silhouetted with his AR-10, or ArmaLite Rifle. This photo is from Aug. 30, 2017. (Brandon Quester/inewsource)
It was constructed in the 1990s as part of Democratic President Bill Clinton’s Operation Gatekeeper, a border security initiative that focused on the San Diego-Tijuana region.
When the landing mat fence proved less effective than expected, the U.S. invested in a secondary fence running parallel to parts of the primary fence — but not along Maupin’s property.
Soon, he said, his backyard became a popular route for migrants crossing illegally into the United States.
“Before Operation Gatekeeper, it was wonderful,” Maupin said. “We had a good rapport with the people down south. They didn’t speak English, but it was always, ‘Hi,’ you know? And what not. But then after Operation Gatekeeper, (Border Patrol) watched the gates, and they didn’t care about the areas between the gates or the ports of entry. So that’s when the cartels got involved (in human smuggling) and were bringing people up from Tijuana, Tecate.”
Back in his house, Maupin keeps a stack of photos in a folder that document his ordeals over the years with migrants who entered the U.S. illegally. They show large groups of people crossing the border onto his property and gaping holes cut into his fence.
Bob Maupin, a self-described vigilante, has experienced the impact of shifting migration patterns in California.
Bob Maupin, 78, owns around 250 acres of land – parts of which border Mexico – in the eastern San Diego County community of Boulevard. Maupin has fortified the area with his own fencing, which includes razor wire, shown here on Aug. 30, 2017. (Brandon Quester/inewsource)
Bob Maupin removes ammunition from his AR-10, or ArmaLite Rifle, after returning from a tour of his Boulevard property along the U.S-Mexico border on Aug. 30, 2017. (Brandon Quester/inewsource)
Bob Maupin’s bulletproof vest is adorned with patches, including an American flag in the outline of a skull, which symbolizes a comic book character known as the Punisher – a vigilante who takes matters of the law into his own hands. Maupin wore this vest, a side pistol and a rifle while patrolling his property in the eastern San Diego County community of Boulevard on Aug. 30, 2017. (Brandon Quester/inewsource)
Bob Maupin, 78, walks along a dirt road on his property that leads from his home to the U.S.-Mexico border. Maupin carries a rifle, pistol and wears a bulletproof vest while walking his property on Aug. 30, 2017. (Brandon Quester/inewsource)
Bob Maupin holds a clip with .308-caliber ammunition for his AR-10, or ArmaLite Rifle, on Aug. 30, 2017, after touring his property in Boulevard, which is near the Mexican border. (Brandon Quester/inewsource)
Bob Maupin, 78, poses on Aug. 30, 2017, for a portrait with his dogs Shadow and Inky while patrolling his ranch that borders Mexico. Maupin erected his own 10-foot-high fence, including razor wire at the top, which took him five years to build. (Brandon Quester/inewsource)
The silhouette of Bob Maupin and his AR-10, or ArmaLite Rifle, extend along a dirt road that leads from his Boulevard home to the U.S-Mexico border outside Boulevard in eastern San Diego County. The photo is from Aug. 30, 2017. (Brandon Quester/inewsource)
Less than 20 feet from Bob Maupin’s property line along the U.S.-Mexico border, this sign reads: CAUTION: FIREARMS IN USE – KEEP OUT. Maupin built his own fencing and frequently patrols his Boulevard property while carrying weapons and wearing a bulletproof vest. This photo is from Aug. 30, 2017. (Brandon Quester/inewsource)
Bob Maupin, 78, checks an area of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border at his ranch outside Boulevard in eastern San Diego County. Maupin said drug and human smugglers often cut through his fence to enter the U.S. illegally. This photo is from Aug. 30, 2017. (Brandon Quester/inewsource)
The only barrier between Bob Maupin’s 250-acre ranch in Boulevard and Mexico is corrugated steel built by the government and a 10-foot-tall barbed wire fence that he built over five years. Maupin, shown on Aug. 30, 2017, patrolling his land with a weapon in-hand, said drug and human smugglers often cut through the fencing to enter the U.S. illegally. (Brandon Quester/inewsource)
Bab Maupin, shown on Aug. 30, 2017, walks along his stretch of property that borders Mexico. His 250-acre ranch is in Eastern San Diego County near the community of Boulevard. (Brandon Quester/inewsource)
“Legal immigrants — love ‘em,” Maupin said. “People breaking the law — that’s my problem. And the government not enforcing it. … Without borders, you’re no longer a country.”
Maupin is a direct and literal man. He deals in actual nuts and bolts, having run an auto parts business for three decades. “I’m about as subtle … as a sledgehammer,” he said. In his retirement, he restores World War II vehicles for fun. He cleans backing plates, installs wheel cylinders, replaces lines and hoses. He built a half-track from the frame up.
He said he built his fence to compensate for what he sees as flaws in the government’s wall. His fence is also imperfect, marred with patches — slabs of corrugated steel and jumbled-up chain link — in all the places that the smugglers have cut it with torches and saws. But it is topped with razor wire, making it harder to climb than the government’s fence.
Even though the wall along his property has caused him problems, Maupin supports Republican President Donald Trump’s goal of extending and fortifying the current border fence. He said he thinks the illegal entries through his property would have never been an issue if the U.S. government had built a strong, impermeable wall in the first place.
It has been years since Maupin caught anyone on his land — illegal immigration has slowed to a trickle in recent years in part because of an improving Mexican economy — but he still finds new breaks in his fence.
“Over the years, my wife and I have had to spend $25,000 in fence repair and property repair because of these people,” he said.
Maupin teared up when he talked about his late wife, Jeanette. As a boy, he dreamed of becoming a Marine. But in high school, he met Jeanette. He said she would have had “nervous breakdowns” during his deployments, so he decided to stay in town and start his auto parts business instead. Together for nearly six decades, they ran their business and raised their two children.
Jeanette died last year in August at the age of 76.
“Before she died, she told me to get on with my life and not waste my time feeling sorry for myself,” Maupin said, his eyes red and wet. “But she was my life.”