SANDERSON - The Big Bend, one of the most challenging terrain border areas to patrol. There, the Department of Homeland Security must be on their toes at all times to combat those who smuggle drugs and immigrants north. NewsWest 9 traveled to the border area to witness first hand on how they do it.
It's early morning and the skies are clearing up from the night before. Intel has just arrived to the Sanderson Border Patrol Station indicating possible illegal activity along the border. A team has been dispatched to the area as we get briefed and get familiar with the terrain.
"91 miles of very rough country," Big Bend Sector Public Affairs Officer, Rush Carter, said.
Carter says those circumstances make it very tough to patrol. Their agents target drug trafficking and illegal immigration.
"This is Highway 349, and that makes it all the way to I-10. This tends to be a major smuggling route here. As the pressures increase in Arizona and South Texas, this could also be a corridor for an increase of smuggling," Carter said.
Cell phone signals disappear as we head to the Rio Grande.
"It becomes very spotty in places, most of the highway out here has no cell phone signal at all. Most people think of that as a real inconvenience. It's an advantage to us because smugglers do use the cell phones as a way to communicate when they try to pick up narcotic loads and loads of people," Carter said.
Border agents use an old school technology, using big tires in what they call dragging. It clears the dirt, leaving a clean slate so they can see whoever crossed the next time they drive by. NewsWest 9 headed to Agua Verde crossing, a hot spot for illegal activity. But before our destination, Carter spots tracks on the road.
"Somebody obviously passed here, the sign doesn't look like it's that old. Within a day at least," Carter said.
The majestic canyons surround this part of the border. As the sun beams down on the river, T-shirts, bags and other types of clothing become faded because of the rays. The only indication that people crossed through there.
"Most of the time we see in the late evening, they would work their way down and cross the river, and then change clothes down in the cane and wait for dark. After dark, they would move out and start to move north," Carter said.
Rocks, cactuses and plants that poke, paint the tattered terrain. The only way to get down and to physically check the Rio Grande River is by foot.
"It takes time. It took us an hour and half to get down here from the pavement. So anytime there's activity in an area, that's how long it's going take to get down here and check it and confirm whether that was actually someone crossing the border illegally or it was animal traffic that caused the disturbance," Carter said.
Big Bend Sector agents have always been vigilant but even more so today.
"The risk, is always there once the threat is that somebody is going to come and cross this border illegally, narcotics, people and terrorist weapons, and things like that. So that's where we need to be vigilant. And have situational awareness of what is happening on this, 510 miles of border that we are responsible for," Carter said.