Business Insider reporter and photographer Daniel Brown recently spent a day riding along with US Border Patrol agents. He got an inside look at the busiest sector of the US-Mexico border. Following is a transcript for the video.
Daniel Brown: I was recently down in McAllen, Texas, down in the Rio Grande Valley, to cover the immigration crisis that’s been going on. I reached out to the Border Patrol for that sector and tried to get a ride-along. Finally, they granted it.
US Border Patrol Agent: The Rio Grande Valley Sector accounts for about 40% of the apprehensions in the United States. McAllen Station specifically is about 20% of the entire nation, and we catch about 300 individuals a day just in this 50-mile span of border.
Brown: They first took me on a boat, just drove up and down the Rio Grande. They’re looking for crossers. Most people cross on rafts or boats. There are just some deflated rafts on the side of the coast there. That’s from people crossing over. We get off periodically, and just take little trails, and walk around. A lot of times they would look for tracks and see some faint ones, be like, okay, we know someone passed through here a couple days ago, or a day ago, or something like that. Their main job is, obviously, to keep the border safe and to apprehend people who are crossing illegally. But also, as they told me, it’s a humanitarian mission as well, you know. Whether it’s Mexicans or Americans, or any other citizen of the world who’s passing through, they wanna try to keep those people safe.
US Border Patrol Agent: That’s kinda one of the difficulties of the job is you have to switch on and off from humanitarian mission to, is this guy trying to take your life?
Brown: Border Patrol agents are killed, are shot at, they find dead bodies a lot, they experience, witness a lot of trauma. One agent who operates mostly on the boats, he said that sometimes they’ll find a raft or a little boat trying to get across, and they’ll be packed with 10 or more people, or something like that. Sometimes they’ll just throw a kid off into the water just ’cause they know that the agents will go for the kid right away to save ’em. We went up and down along the river there for a while. We ran into a lot of sugar cane. It’s very dense, and they were talking about the difficulties of tracking people through that, how a lot of times people can just run into that and they’ll just never find ’em, even if they have dogs.
US Border Patrol Agent: You cordon off this field and try to surround it, even when we have a canine assist come in so that the dog can follow and smell the people, he gets overloaded. So, it’s a big, big challenge, the sugar cane.
Brown: After that, we drove around for a little bit, a lot of stray dogs walking around. And the agents even said they use the dogs sometimes to kind of decipher if someone’s in the area.
US Border Patrol Agent: These dogs at times will give you a heads up, because with experience you start to see that they weren’t barking before, but then they began to bark, so they’ll kinda give you a little heads up that somebody’s in the area or something’s in the area.
Brown: The people that live along the borders, I spoke to some of them who have people crossing through their property, who’ve been there for years, and it happens almost daily, and they’ll ruin their crops. I met one family who’s shot people who cross into their property. Those landowners, when I went and visited them, they said to come back in a few hours, and I did, and that’s when they told me, “Oh, you missed it.” And then they drove me out on their little four wheeler and showed me the tracks. Those tracks were like an hour old when I took ’em. A lot of these people that are crossing over illegally or going to ports of entry, they’ve had tough lives, and they’re trying to escape violence, they’re trying to get a better life. And that’s something that I think that we should realize and understand as a country. But at the same time, you know, people, like the Border Patrol agents, their lives are at risk sometimes. People on all sides of the issue are going through tough things sometimes, and I think we need to see all aspects of that.