KHOU 11 Investigates: A closer look at the Texas-Mexico border

KHOU's Grace White went on the road to show viewers what's really going on at the Texas-Mexico border.

KHOU 11 investigates our border. It's a political hot button and an emotional issue, which is why we sent Grace White on the road to show you what is really going on at the Texas border.

When the sun rises in the Rio Grande Valley, it's a new day for border patrol agents.

"This area is pretty busy, it's second in the nation for narcotics traffic,” said Marlene Castro, a U.S. Border Patrol Spokeswoman.

Their eyes wide open in the small city of Roma.

"You see the vegetation, it provides really good thick concealment," Castro said.

Across the river in Mexico, look-outs wait for the right time to sneak groups across. However, in a matter of minutes everything changes. Agents rush to a raft full of people and a swimmer turning back to Mexico's shore.

"We had a couple of subjects come up here, scouting the area," Castro said.

Then, a man and woman from Honduras are caught on the bluffs, and from there, you can see people paddling back to escape border patrol. Next, a few blocks away agents catch a man and two women.

"They did say they were all from Guatemala," Castro said.

As night falls, it gets more dangerous.

"There may be some narcotics coming across," Castro said.

After hours of waiting, word comes that other border agents intercepted the drugs.

On this day, agents in the Rio Grande Valley sector stop 617 people crossing the border.

Linda Vickers is a Texas Border Volunteer whose seen it all.

"If you see a group of people out here it's going to be human trafficking,” she said.

Over the years, she's reported hundreds of people crossing through her South Texas ranch.

"You have to be aware of your surroundings. I usually pack a pistol with me,” Vickers said.

In Hidalgo, there’s one spot about a mile from the actual border where the fence just stops, making it that much easier for people to walk right through.

"You know I think it's a tool," said Chris Cabrera with the National Border Patrol Council.

The Union representing border patrol says the gaps in the fence are strategic, but it doesn't erase the problem.

"If your kitchen sink is overflowing, you need to turn off the water before you start mopping and that's what the border security is... it's stopping the flow and then figuring out what's wrong," Cabrera said.

The Union endorsed President Trump during the campaign and are backing his executive order to build a wall.

"Whether it's a brick and mortar wall, some type of fencing, virtual fencing, technology sensors, aerial surveillance. Something needs to be put in place to help the agents,” Cabrera said.

"We take care of families, moms, children,” said Sister Norma Pimentel, Executive Director of Catholic Charities in the Rio Grande Valley.

She runs a center that's been recognized by the Pope for her work with immigrants.

"I don't know that walls can ever help, it doesn't send the right message," she said.

"I think people were ready for a change, a real change," said Vickers, who wasn’t originally a Trump supporter but is now listening. "He's worth a try. Nobody else, whether Republican or Democrat, has made a big difference nobody.”

As the sun sets, policies are debated thousands of miles away in Washington, while border patrol agents stand ready not knowing what the next day will bring.

The fence we have now was a project that congress funded in 2006, but it doesn't cover the whole border. The changing landscape of the Rio Grande and private property rights have both been challenges.

The numbers of people caught crossing the border in the Rio Grande Valley peaked at 256,393 in 2014. That year, agents say they had an influx of children flooding the border. The next year, in 2015, the numbers dropped to 147,257 but in 2016 it rose again to 186,830 people caught crossing.

© 2017 KHOU-TV


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