In Texas, ‘Buses Idle Near the Border Wall . . . Awaiting Loads of Immigrants’

Christopher Sherman, CNS News, July 7, 2014

Deputy Rudy Trevino was patrolling a park along the Texas-Mexico border when he spied movement in the darkness. Swinging his spotlight toward the motion revealed 14 women and children who had just sneaked across the Rio Grande in a small boat.

The youngest, a 14-month-old boy from Guatemala, lay quietly in a baby carrier hung from his mother’s chest. The oldest, a 38-year-old woman from El Salvador, cried with her head in her hands, her 7-year-old daughter leaning against her.

In minutes, they were loaded into a Border Patrol van and whisked away–a typical encounter here in the 5-mile slice of deep South Texas that has become the epicenter of the recent surge in illegal immigration.

An Associated Press reporter recently spent several days observing the human drama that unfolds daily across this arid landscape that bristles with cameras, lookout towers and heavily armed patrols.

Most of the impoverished immigrants hail from Central America, and many come with children. They often turn themselves over to authorities immediately after crossing the river, following the advice of smugglers, friends and relatives, who tell them they will eventually be released and allowed to continue to their destination.

For parents with young children, that has largely been true because the U.S. has only one long-term family detention facility in Pennsylvania, and it’s full. {snip}

Children arriving without their parents are transferred to custody of the Health and Human Services Department, which tries to reunite them with family members in the U.S.

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Migrants’ willingness to surrender to authorities has created a system in which smugglers need only to get their human cargo to the American side of the river, rather than guiding them to a populated area.

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All through the night, government buses idle near the border wall–a mile or two from the river–awaiting loads of immigrants. The zone is patrolled by no fewer than six local, state and federal law-enforcement agencies, including gunboats crewed by Texas state troopers with night-vision goggles and the Border Patrol’s white and green trucks. Helicopters swoop above the winding waterway.

But there’s little cat-and-mouse pursuit. Every day, hundreds of immigrants walk up to agents, wave to their remote cameras or simply wait to be picked up on the side of a road like Trevino’s group in the park.

When Anzalduas Park is busy on weekend afternoons, it takes only seconds for a watercraft to dart across the river and deposit three or four people onto U.S. soil. From there, they blend into the crowd of park goers.

Trevino said the past two months have been “chaos.” He’s corralled 100 people in a night and had a group of 50 walk up to him at the park bathroom.

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A few days earlier, as a reporter in a kayak approached a hairpin bend in the river, a cartel sentry on a bluff 20 feet above the river slammed a magazine into his assault rifle. He asked where the paddler had come from and who gave him permission to be there. A radio squawked at his waist. The cartel controls what crosses the river.

That’s part of why Napoleon Garza doesn’t bring his kids here to fish like he did as a child. Garza recently drove through one of the many gaps in the border wall to cut a tree stump from property owned by his uncle.

“When they built the border wall, everything ended because they left a big old gap right here that so happened to be where our land is,” said Garza, 38, who sells firewood for a living. “That’s where these guys have to run their dope. It’s really sad.”

As Garza stood above the river, two Texas game warden boats sped by, each with a rifleman scanning the shores. A few minutes later, twigs cracked and a green-clad Border Patrol agent emerged from the brush checking to see what Garza was up to–a constant occurrence near the river.

The city of McAllen, which draws its water from the Rio Grande, has pumps on a narrow strip of land between the border fence and the river. Workers there started carrying handguns after they came under fire.

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