Discuss as:

Border security improvements create new deadly route for illegal immigrants

By Eric Thayer, Reuters
I’m running through the desert outside a tiny town called Encino with a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter flying above me. As I move through trees and bushes, the sand is soft and every step is an effort. It feels like I am running on the spot as I hold my cameras close so they don’t swing into my sides. Border Patrol agents are all around me and the only noises are the helicopter above, my own labored breathing and the sound of footsteps in the sand.

Eric Thayer / Reuters

U.S. Border Patrol agent Daniel Tirado from the Rio Grande Valley Sector looks out at the Rio Grande river in Hidalgo, Texas March 28.

In south Texas, the Rio Grande River separates the U.S. from Mexico. It is a brown river that varies between 50 to 100 yards across. On the surface, the water looks calm as it meanders through the brush, but it hides swirling currents – just one of the many hazards faced by those who cross. The line between the two countries is imaginary here, but if you could see it as it appears on a map, it would be right in the middle of the river.

Eric Thayer / Reuters

A U.S. Border Patrol agent from the Rio Grande Valley Sector searches for a group of illegal immigrants who crossed the Rio Grande River in Mission, Texas March 28, 2013. Brooks County has become an epicenter for illegal immigrant deaths in Texas. In 2012, sheriff's deputies found 129 bodies there, six times the number recorded in 2010. Most of those who died succumbed to the punishing heat and rough terrain that comprise the ranch lands of south Texas.

At this moment, the border is about 60 miles south. I’m with the U.S. Border Patrol after a report from a local rancher of a group of people crossing over his land. If they make it across the river, through the brush and past the Border Patrol there are vehicles that will take them north. From this part of Texas, there is basically just one checkpoint left, called Falfurrias. If they are able to bypass that, they can move up into other parts of the state and to the rest of the country.

Eric Thayer / Reuters

The border fence is seen in Mission, Texas March 28, 2013. Most of those who died crossing the border succumbed to the punishing heat and rough terrain that comprise the ranch lands of south Texas.

Ahead of me, a Border Patrol agent chases four men and I dash to keep up. They are running from a country, from a war and towards a better life. They are running for freedom. But sometimes it’s not that simple. That’s the thing about it down here – nothing is simple about this.

The border has always fascinated me. It’s a line on a map, but when you’re down by it sometimes you can’t even tell it’s there. Other times it’s glaringly obvious, marked out by fences, walls, checkpoints and security cameras. Continue reading

Eric Thayer / Reuters

People are taken into custody by the U.S. Border Patrol near Falfurrias, Texas March 29, 2013.

Eric Thayer / Reuters

People sit on a couch at Casa del Migrante in Reynosa April 1, 2013. Casa del Migrante provides housing, food, clothing and medical care to people who are planning to cross the border, and to those who have been deported from the United States.

Eric Thayer / Reuters

A man receives a haircut at Casa del Migrante in Reynosa April 1, 2013.

Eric Thayer / Reuters

The unidentified grave of a person whose remains were found in the desert is seen in Falfurrias, Texas April 1, 2013.

Related Content: