Skip to comments.South Texas: The New Hot Spot For Illegal Crossing
Posted on 01/19/2014 2:40:09 PM PST by nickcarraway
As the U.S. government has militarized the California and Arizona segment of the Southwest border over the last two decades, illegal crossers have moved to another area. South Texas has become the new border hot spot.
The Rio Grande Valley is also the closest route to Central America. Two-thirds of those caught crossing are from that troubled region.
The Border Patrol and local authorities are straining to keep up.
Fleeing Poverty And Murder
In Reynosa, Mexico, just across the Rio Grande from McAllen, Texas, is Casa del Migrante, a Catholic-run shelter.
It's a cement-block building with a large dining room, separate dorms for men and for women and children. It's a relatively safe place in what can be a dangerous city for migrants like Mario Torres.
The soft-spoken 25-year-old has already traveled 1,500 miles from his home in Honduras. He paid fees to guides and bribes to bandits. Better than staying home, he says.
"I couldn't find work," he says. "I came with my wife. We came together, the two of us. The criminals, they killed one of her brothers. We had to come because they were threatening us."
More From The Border
Trains that once deposited travelers for shopping and dining in dusty Sierra Blanca, Texas, no longer stop here. Interstates further eroded the local economy as more people chose to live and shop in El Paso, 85 miles away. U.S. Border Drug Busts Putting Strain On Texas County's Budget A hilltop view of the 18-foot fence along the U.S.-Mexico border west of Nogales, Ariz. U.S. Is The Border Secure Enough To Tackle The Immigration System? This photograph is included in an exhibition currently at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Photography In Mexico. (Border fence, near Naco, Ariz., 2010) The Picture Show Seeing More Than A Fence: Road Trip Along The Southern Border Torres was a truck driver; his wife was a high school teacher. He says they had no choice but to escape the poverty and violence in Honduras, the country with the highest murder rate in the world. His wife is already in the U.S., with relatives in South Carolina.
They paid smugglers a premium price for her to cross safely: $13,000.
"I have a cousin in the United States," Torres says. "She loaned us the money, and now she's working my wife started working and paying it back, little by little."
Now he's biding his time until he can cross. He'll need to pay a guide to ford the Rio Grande on a power boat, an oar boat, anything that floats.
On the U.S. side of the river, Border Patrol Agent Danny Tirado drives along a landscape that is very different from the Arizona desert the stretch of border that's gotten most of the attention over the last decade.
In Arizona, steel walls and mountain ranges separate the seemingly endless desert between the two countries. Here in South Texas, the border wall doubles as a levee to protect McAllen from flooding.
Outside the city, the wide Rio Grande is the barrier, though it twists and turns so much that, in places, border agents can't see around the next bend. The air is humid, the vegetation thick.
"It's a lot of dense brush," Tirado says. "It does make it easy for people to hide in that area."
'I Don't Feel Safe Anymore'
The Border Patrol has been beefing up its presence here. Over the last decade, it has doubled the number of agents in the Rio Grande sector to roughly 3,000.
The Border Patrol even has a checkpoint 65 miles north of the border, in Brooks County, Texas, on the main road out of McAllen. Every vehicle stops at there an effective way to catch drug smugglers.
Few migrants try to cross, however. Instead, human smugglers stop before the checkpoint and tell their clients to walk around it, right onto Linda Vickers' ranch land.
"I don't feel safe anymore out here," Vickers says. "I carry a pistol with me and cell phone when I go outside. It just shouldn't be like that."
The Border Patrol checkpoint is Vickers' nearest neighbor, about 4 miles away. The ranch is in grassland dotted with mesquite trees and scrub brush. As she sits on the front porch of her large stucco ranch house, her dogs stand at alert, sensing something.
"I guarantee you, they smell somebody," Vickers says.
She sees groups of 10, 20, even 50 people every day, she says.
"It's the trespassing. It's like if you had a nice yard in a nice place, and people were littering and tearing your fences and defecating on your property," she says. "And you're finding all this you'd be a little upset, too."
Crossing Can Be Deadly
It's easy to see why people cross here. If they make it to the next pickup point, they've pretty much made it to anywhere in the U.S. But it's not a quick walk around the checkpoint, as smugglers tell the migrants.
People can be out in the heat or the cold for days before they're picked up again.
Brooks County Chief Deputy Sheriff Benny Martinez sees the bodies of those who don't make it. Last year, 87 people died crossing Brooks County. He calls that good news.
"I call it good news, absolutely," Martinez says. "Compared to last year's 129, we're way down."
He says deaths declined only because the weather was relatively mild.
Overwhelmed And Frustrated
Martinez's office is in the Brooks County seat, Falfurrias. It's a small town in a small county of fewer than 10,000 people.
Martinez and his four deputies are used to dealing with relatively small matters: traffic, drunkenness, the occasional burglary or fight. Now, he says, dealing with illegal crossers takes up more than 85 percent of the sheriff's office workload and half the county budget.
"It's been overhwelming," Martinez says. "It's been frustrating, frustrating in the sense that you're trying to do what's right and you can't because [you] don't have the resources to do it."
Brooks County doesn't even have a medical examiner for the bodies, relying on a neighboring county and on Texas State University to do autopsies and DNA tests so the dead can be connected with their families.
Martinez says he'd like to see the federal government pass a guest worker program so people can come legally. In the meantime, Brooks County is asking the government to reimburse its costs.
"It has to come from Washington," he says. "I don't see Brooks County taking the whole burden of all of this. It just doesn't make sense."
It fits the government's strategy, though: Increase border security in one place so people cross in another until it becomes too dangerous or too expensive.
But, they keep coming.
Millions are trying to get in before the GOP passes amnesty.
All part of the plan to turn TX deep blue.
It’s working too.
Once amnesty passes TX is a goner for the GOP.
If we can have TSA harass a baby’s diaper or grandma in a walker...we have the resources to seal the border and deport Illegal Aliens
Yup. It won’t belong now until Americans have no say in who is running their government.
If Mexico wasn't such a corrupt pest hole they might want to stay there, but with jobs and money and all they have to do is get here, they are going to come.
Governor Castro coming to TX in 2018 or 2022 ...that will end us
Whack ‘em & stack ‘em.
I live in southern Arizona across the border with Mexico and I don't see the militarization of the border.
The Border Patrol made 420,789 apprehensions in the fiscal year that ended in
September. That is a 16 percent increase from the previous year but still 42
percent below 2008. As usual, more than 98 percent of those arrests were made
on the Southwest border. And nowhere saw more arrests than Texas.
Agents in Texas made 235,567 arrests.
According to the DPS, the plane is being used for surveillance and
assisting operations along the US-Mexico border.
The plane, purchased from Swiss company Pilatus Aircraft Ltd., is jam-packed with
military-style features including high-resolution and thermal imaging surveillance
cameras, a $300,000 downlink system allowing the crew to send real-time footage anywhere
in the state. As a bonus, the package also came with four night-vision goggles worth about $60,000.
Salt Water Crocodiles are Big and have a Bad Attitude.
Everything is food.
I’m all for it.
Do drones come in fish-size submarine forms? Just thinking out loud... continued...
Surely you jest Shirley. We lost that pretty much about the time of FDR and certainly LBJ! The Marxists are just running a clean up operation now...that is until the shooting starts.
I’m still waiting to see one!
And once Texas is gone, the GOP will never control anything higher than the House.
There is no roadmap to victory for a Republican presidential candidate that cedes Texas to the Democrats. It's just not possible.
You’re right. It’s lights out then.
But Romney won in Texas by 16 points in 2012. That’s equivalent to Obama’s margin in Illinois.
Maybe if Mexicans would put just half the energy into fixing their country that they do into destroying ours than maybe someday Mexicans won’t have to run away from Mexico. I’m sick of these f’ing people. Mexicans are a bunch of pugnacious arrogant beggars who feel that simply because they’re only one of two countries in all the world to share a border with The United States that some how this confers a de facto right on them to just waltz on in here. No one has the legal right to illegally enter someone else’s country. They are in violation of the law, they don’t pay the taxes we do nor do they think they have to obey any of our laws.