Investigation

‘It’s An SOS’: Texas Community Reels As Colony Ridge Expands, Says Development Has ‘Devastated Our Way Of Life’

"It went from a very clean, very safe community where everybody knew everybody to, ‘Oh my God, we are invaded.’"

   DailyWire.com
Sign that stands in one of the entrances of the Montebello Subdivision in Liberty County. Montebello is a 900-lot development created by Colony Ridge.
Houston Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images

Residents and law enforcement in the immediate area surrounding Colony Ridge, a massive land development that many believe has become a settlement for thousands of illegal immigrants, say their once-beloved community is now unrecognizable, charging that the area now resembles a “third world country.”

Everett Needham says he’s facing the reality that it may be time to leave the area that his parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents have all called home. He told The Daily Wire that the Colony Ridge development “has been a disaster from day one.” Needham says the development, which has brought tens of thousands of new residents to his backyard, putting a strain on the area’s schools and law enforcement, “has devastated our way of life,” with the town that several generations of his family have lived in now feeling “like a third world country.”

Residents of Plum Grove, a small town of roughly one thousand residents that’s been swallowed alive by Colony Ridge, say they feel like they’ve been invaded. One resident, who spoke to The Daily Wire on the condition of anonymity citing fears of retaliation, said she now lives in fear.

“We had a really nice, clean, country-atmosphere community. And then we started noticing all the trash in the ditches, you know, and the traffic and the blaring music,” she explained. “It went from a very clean, very safe community where everybody knew everybody to, ‘Oh my God, we are invaded.’ And it’s an SOS. I’m scared to death to leave my house.”

She says she used to go into Colony Ridge to assess the growth of the development, where she saw “tar paper houses,” “shanty houses,” and “old travel trailers that are covered in plastic tarps.” But now she says she’s “quit going back there because it got too dangerous.”

The woman, whose identity and residence nearby the development were verified by The Daily Wire, said in the past few years she’s been “rear ended” twice: “Both times have been illegal aliens. With no driver’s license and no insurance.” Like Needham, she and her husband are now looking to leave the area and house they’ve spent years of work making their home.

But while some may be on their way out, many more people are coming to Colony Ridge, which offers cheap plots of land with financial offers catered for foreign nationals unable to obtain traditional home loans. As was detailed by The Daily Wire last month, Colony Ridge has become the “fastest growing development in the United States” through an aggressive Spanish language-only marketing campaign that offers that chance to “own land in the United States.”

“You can own without credit or [Social Security Number],” reads one post on the Facebook page of Terrenos Houston, the name that Colony Ridge uses in its marketing operations.

Another recent post reiterates that customers do not need a social security number to buy land, and can instead use identification documents from a foreign country. “You only need ITIN or passport and ID,” it says before assuring “it can be your country’s license or document to buy land.”

The individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) has been celebrated by pro-illegal immigrant organizations like the National Immigration Law Center as a “powerful tool” for “undocumented immigrants” in the United States.

Other social media posts show what appears to be a Terrenos Houston office, where the foreign flags of Mexico and other Latin American flags are showcased.

The developers behind Colony Ridge have pushed back on the allegations, saying it has no legal requirement to check immigration status, and that there is nothing illegal about foreign nationals buying property in the United States. But residents say there’s no denying that a large bulk of the population flocking to Colony Ridge is in the country illegally.

“You could drive through that subdivision and you could fill up a damn school bus in about 30 minutes,” Needham said of the illegal alien population in the area.

In an interview with the New York Times, Colony Ridge developer John Harris  acknowledged that the business model is to sell to people who “couldn’t buy anywhere else.”

“We found properties that no one wanted and people who couldn’t buy anywhere else,” he explained. His brother and fellow Colony Ridge developer William “Trey” Harris didn’t dispute the large presence of illegal immigrants either, instead quipping to the Times, “We’re not border patrol … There are lawmakers in this country and that’s their responsibility to keep our borders safe.”

Experts say the large illegal immigrant community has been leveraged by Mexican drug cartels, which see Colony Ridge as a potential foothold in the United States.

Liberty County Sheriff Bobby Rader seems to believe that their fears are well-founded. “We’ve heard rumors that the cartel is buying up houses,” Rader stated on the Michael Berry Show, also affirming that violent crimes, sexual crimes, and drug trafficking are occurring in the area.

Rader acknowledged that Colony Ridge was a “big problem that I don’t think anybody was prepared to handle, including the Liberty County Sheriff’s office.” He says his office barely has a handle on how many people are living there, and is therefore unaware just how outmanned his force is. If the development has 50,000 residents, “the most I have is one deputy for every 16,700 people,” Rader explained. But if there are 75,000 residents, “I have one deputy per 25,000 people at any given time patrolling Colony Ridge.”

A minor in Colony Ridge was abducted at gunpoint, beaten, and shot at as he ran down the street yelling “They’re going to kill me” just recently. One suspect was arrested and charged, but two other suspects escaped law enforcement.

Rader says he spoke with a Texas Ranger who described Colony Ridge as the epicenter of criminal activity in the state. “He said that in his ten years of investigations … either the defendant, the victim, the weapon, or the vehicle used came from the subdivisions.”

Residents say they are acutely aware that law enforcement doesn’t have the resources they need to handle the development, which is rapidly expanding and some estimate could spike to 200,000 residents in the coming years.

“We have no protection. We have zero. If we have a need, we have to call Liberty County police and sometimes it takes 30 minutes for them to get here,” a woman who lives on the north side of Colony Ridge near a town called Cleveland. “I don’t even want to go to the town anymore. But the scary thing is, it’s about to come out here in our unincorporated area and our community.”

The woman, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, says residents “shoot guns all the time. Day and night, just shooting all the time.”

“We used to not lock our doors, we would stay outside way past dark. I would let my kids go down to the friend’s house,” she reminisced. “It’s just not safe anymore. We are ready to flee our own home, leave everything that we’ve known for 20 something years. I do not feel safe. We do not feel safe here anymore.”

She echoed the sentiment that their neighborhood has been invaded. “It’s not the America, it’s not the Texas, and it’s definitely not the area that we originally are from,” she said. “It’s totally different demographics. I feel like it’s 10 times more people in the last month, just since August. You don’t even see the people in our community in the stores anymore. It’s foreigners. They’re foreign people. They are people that do not speak our language.”

The woman says her request for anonymity is not out of fear for the people of Colony Ridge, but rather retaliation from the officials behind it.

“Not so much from the people who are moving in here, but the people who allowed it to happen.” When asked if she fears there would be repercussions for speaking out, she said, “Yes. Yes. All the way up to the people who were involved in developing.”

Needham also placed the blame at the feet of local politicians who he believes have enabled the developer, saying he thinks “local government allowed this to happen.” But now he thinks local politicians such as State Representative Ernest Bailes, who represents the district that includes the development, will come to regret their support of Colony Ridge.

“I think it’ll absolutely devastate his campaign if we can get the word out that he’s the one that’s helping this thing,” Needham said of Bailes, who has received campaign contributions from developer William “Trey” Harris, as well as multiple entities associated with the development.

Robert Freyer, the First Assistant District Attorney of neighboring San Jacinto County, told The Daily Wire that the population growth is an insurmountable challenge for law enforcement.

“They don’t have enough deputies and law enforcement personnel and prosecutors to deal with the growing amount of crime that they are going to see,” Freyer said. “You’re dealing with a population that is uncooperative with law enforcement anyway. Any person-on-person crime is very difficult to prosecute.”

“You can’t do your job as a cop or a prosecutor in a community where you don’t have cooperation from the people that live there,” he said before echoing Sheriff Rader regarding potential drug cartel activity in the area. “The cartels from what I’ve heard are buying up all the developments and they’re gonna overrun it. They’re already starting to overrun it.”

Freyer said law enforcement believes “cartels are importing liquid meth into those houses” and “turning it into crystal there.”

The fear of violent crime and cartel activity has resulted in many of the locals fleeing the area. “I can tell you that a lot of local people that lived there for generations, that were there when Liberty County was founded back in the 1830s and 40s, they’re leaving,” Freyer explained.

But illegal alien criminality has extended beyond Liberty County and into neighboring San Jacinto County, where an illegal alien from Mexico massacred a neighboring family of five Hondurans who were also in the country illegally, after they asked him to stop firing his rifle into the air late one night. “You don’t want to go down there at night unless you feel like getting hit by a falling bullet because it’s wild west out there at night. They get up and they get drunk and they shoot their guns off.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who has also received large financial contributions from Harris, has sprung the state into action since The Daily Wire published its investigation of Colony Ridge last month. Earlier this month, Abbott officially declared that legislation to address the crisis at the development would be on the agenda for the special legislative session that began on October 9.

Governor Abbott’s turn against Colony Ridge has come much to the chagrin of developer Trey Harris, who previously donated $1.4 million to the Governor’s campaign. “It is what it is, he’s got to cover his butt first,” Harris told The New York Times. “But don’t expect a million dollars next year. It ain’t happening again, brother.”

It is still unclear what the legislature can do about the development, though some have suggested that laws could be passed to address the use of the ITINs for property sales.

Four legislators recently suggested in a letter to Abbott that the state could put the area surrounding Colony Ridge in a “conservatorship,” which they believe would allow state law enforcement to take charge of the situation from locals.

The entire Republican delegation of the U.S. House of Representatives has also called on Abbott and state officials to take action, stating in a letter that it is “unthinkable that such an enormous settlement would be allowed to persist in Texas.”

Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), who spearheaded the letter, says the crisis at Colony Ridge is a direct result of weak border security, and warns that developments like it will pop up throughout the country if nothing is done.

“What’s happening in my backyard is proof: America is being invaded,” Babin wrote in The Daily Wire. “Unfortunately, those in charge of our nation’s security are the same people hoping illegal immigrants vote for them one day.”

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