HIDALGO COUNTY, Texas -- Border Patrol agent Isaac Villegas will drag a large tire from the back of his unit to erase footprints left behind by illegal immigrants. He does this so he can detect fresher ones when he comes back.
It doesn’t take long before he catches up to a group of undocumented Salvadorians who were detained south of Mission, Texas a city in Hidalgo County near the Rio Grande River.
Reimberto, 21, said he paid smugglers $7,000 to get him and his 8-month-old daughter to the border.
“I was being threatened constantly,” he told the KENS 5 Border Team in Spanish. He said his final destination is New York, where he hopes to find a better life.
About 50 miles west, in Starr County, the presence of law enforcement is evident, with troopers on the ground, and surveillance blimps in the sky.
The Border Team went into a wildlife refuge where border agents make up for a lack of border fence.
These days, they’re kept busy detaining undocumented families that are turning themselves in after crossing the river.
The Border Team witnessed the moment four smugglers were escorting two different groups of undocumented families across the Rio Grande, all wearing life vests and boarding an inflatable raft. A total of 22 people were rounded up once they made it across, while the smugglers made it back, packed up and left.
Border agents know that it won’t be long before they take advantage of this part of the border to smuggle again.
That is why Texas DPS director Steve McCraw addressed a Texas Homeland Security commission, providing results of a two-year mission to secure the border.
“As Starr County goes, so goes the nation when it comes to drug and human smuggling,” McCraw said.
He requested an additional 250 troopers to hold the hotbeds of Hidalgo and Starr counties.
He also plans to continue visiting with other lawmakers with hopes they can get the extra help passed in the next legislative session beginning in January.
There’s no indication that this wave of illegal smuggling will be slowing down anytime soon.