Thursday, April 26, 2012

Life on the Border--Part 1

This is the first of two posts on what it is like to live close to the U.S. border with Mexico.  Part 2 will come tomorrow.

Everyone in the country is aware of the issues of illegal immigration and drug smuggling across our border with Mexico.  During the time we have spent in Arizona the past few years, we thought we understood what was going on.  But you really have to live on the border to understand the problems.  Since mid-January we have been living within a mile or less of the Rio Grande and Mexico.

The local television news is full of stories about these issues.  In the past few weeks, local police have found 50 stash houses for illegal immigrants.  One house had 60 people staying there, all without water or electricity.  Apparently, the coyotes (the people who collect money to help Mexicans enter the US) give people the address of a house on this side of the border.  The people find their own way into the country then locate the stash house.  From there the coyote transports them somewhere north where, hopefully, they can find some work.

During the first half of April two vehicles carrying these illegals crashed on Rio Grande Valley highways.  In one instance, four people died.  In the second accident, nine people were killed.  The 15-year-old driver is in jail, facing homicide charges.  I doubt this is the better life these people were hoping for.

We hear on the news about seizures of drugs.  Last week five tons of marijuana was seized in this part of Texas.  We and others living in this refuge RV parking area have watched two seizures of large amounts of drugs on the road next to our RVs. 

We love where our RV is parked.  It is dark—no street lights.  We can see the stars at night.  It is quiet at night—that is, unless we hear the Border Patrol helicopter overhead or speeding cars belonging either to smugglers or the Border Patrol.

We understand there are sensors on all or most pedestrian routes near the border.  We often go running or walking on the levee near our RV.  Many mornings, about 5 to 10 minutes after we start down the levee, a Border Patrol vehicles rushes up to us.  Then the driver slows down, maybe asks where we came from, and tells us to be safe out there.  What sensors did we trigger?

At least six times a week we are scheduled to take refuge visitors down a trail to view the Rio Grande.  The trail has historically been used to smuggle guns and drugs and cotton and clothes and electronics and people to and from Mexico.  We have been told that there are numerous Border Patrol sensors along that trail.  We have seen clothing and other items left on the trail by people crossing to the U.S. from Mexico.  We have seen people appearing to fish on the Mexican side of the river and waved to them.  But we wonder if they are scouts, checking out when it is safe for people to cross.  This is just a fact of life along the border. 

Daily we see Border Patrol vehicles patrolling near our RV park, driving on the levee that goes through the wildlife refuge, driving and walking through the refuge.  We have seen agents carrying high-powered automatic rifles along the refuge road and through a nearby farm field.  Last week an agent carrying an automatic rifle walked walked past our tram at the visitor center.  We have the highest respect for the Border Patrol and the work they do.  We know they are working hard to catch the bad guys and we feel protected.  But, we don’t feel safe. 

Recently, we have seen them taking boats down into the refuge, headed for a spot they can put in on the Rio Grande.  We didn’t see that earlier in the winter, but we heard on the news that spring is the seasons when illegal border crossings increase.  I am guessing that is because more farm workers and other laborers are in demand up north.

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