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  • Writer's pictureLauren Jessop

Citizen Stringer visits the border Part One:

Eagle Pass, TX, hot spot for illegal immigration, and what we found – daylight hours

EAGLE PASS, Texas – We see the photos and videos of illegal border crossings, and what seems like a never-ending number of illegal aliens apprehended, posted frequently by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, law enforcement, and the few journalists who cover the crisis on the ground, but until you see it live and in person, you cannot fully appreciate the scope of it. A few weeks ago we visited several locations in the Del Rio area to see it for ourselves.

On November 12 we traveled to Eagle Pass, which is roughly 55 miles south of Del Rio, and one of the new “hot spots” that smugglers are bringing migrants to.

Many law enforcement personnel we spoke to over the course of our trip seem overwhelmed. Early in our travels that day, we ran into a Texas Department of Safety (DPS) trooper and asked him where we might go to see events unfold. His answer was, “Everywhere.”

After a brief chat, he thanked us for what we were doing and said that the “people up north have no idea what’s going on” there because most of the media is not covering what is happening in their state.

As we traveled the area, we saw unfinished sections of the border wall, along with idle construction equipment and materials that were meant to complete it.

Section of unfinished border wall
Unfinished border wall

On this particular day, we made our way to the banks of the Rio Grande River.

We saw some of the efforts of Operation Lone Star, a program launched by Texas Governor Greg Abbott in March 2021. The project integrates DPS and the Texas National Guard, and deploys air, ground, marine, and tactical border security assets to high threat areas to deny Mexican Cartels, other smugglers, and coyotes the ability to move drugs and people into Texas.

Gov. Abbott has been extremely critical of the Biden administration’s border policies. Abbott says since the federal government refuses to secure the border, the state will “surge the resources and law enforcement personnel needed to confront the crisis.”

Not far from the Camino Real International Bridge, and near a golf course, along the banks of the Rio Grande, we saw National Guard members and Humvees lined up along with shipping containers and lengths of concertina (barbed) wire which serves as a barrier in order to channel illegal border crossers to areas in which Border Patrol officers are located.

Operation Lone Star shipping container barriers
Operation Lone Star shipping container barriers

Operation Lone Star shipping container barriers

National Guard jeep on Rio Grande
Looking across to Mexico

We found our way to the river by 3 p.m. It was a beautiful sunny day and the temperature was around 80 degrees. The area was quiet and desolate as we drove along the dirt roads, but the farther we traveled, the more signs of activity we saw. We did come across a Border Patrol officer and we introduced ourselves. Other than that, we were alone.

We came upon signs in Spanish that said, “SIGA EL CAMINO,” which translated to English means “Follow the path.”

Follow the path in Spanish
"Follow the path"

Trail along Rio Grande

Sign in Spanish, Follow the path
"Follow the path"

We decided the signs were there to prevent individuals from getting lost, but also, if people are following signs in a certain direction, Border Patrol can find them more easily. In the dark of night, it would be very easy to get lost.

As we drove, we started seeing items of clothing along the sides of the road.

We were overwhelmed by the number of personal items and clothing we saw – until we found THE spot.

We knew we were in the right place when we realized that what we found previously was small in comparison, and that did not compare to how much more there would be by the end of the evening.

Why all the discarded items?

The migrants swim or walk across the river to the U.S. side. When they reach the banks, they remove their wet clothing, leave it, and put on other items they have kept dry in the process. Although we found many items on the riverbank and along the paths from the river to the road, the majority of them are discarded along the sides of the road.

Among the belongings, we found various types of paperwork – money, airline tickets from Aeromexico, and a Colombian passport for a 4-year-old girl. Many migrants drop their IDs on the Mexican side of the river before crossing, hoping to claim they are from a country that will give them better chances at an asylum claim, but we did see many presenting some form of identification to Border Patrol as they were being pre-processed, prior to being taken to the station for formal processing.

We spent a little more than six hours at the Rio Grande that day, and we can tell you that the stream of illegal border crossings is never-ceasing – especially once the sun goes down.

While in Texas, we made a stop in Brackettville to speak with Kinney County Sheriff Brad Coe.

Part Two coming soon – what we saw in the evening.

Originally published on Citizen Stringer December 1, 2021

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