This story was co-published with the Texas Tribune.
BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS — The land agents started working the border between Texas and Mexico in the spring of 2007. Sometimes they were representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers. Other times they were officers from the U.S. Border Patrol, uniformed in green, guns tucked into side holsters. They visited tumbledown mobile homes and suburban houses with golf course views. They surveyed farms fecund with sugar cane, cotton and sorghum growing by the mud-brown Rio Grande. They delivered their blunt news to ranchers and farmers, sheet metal workers and university professors, auto mechanics and wealthy developers.