By Alicia Neaves
BIG BEND - Border Patrol has to cover hundreds of miles of rugged, remote terrain in West Texas. So just how safe is our border with Mexico from terrorists?
NewsWest 9 took a ride with agents to get a better grasp of how they secure the largest section of the Southwest border.
510 miles. That's how many miles of border the U.S. Border Patrol Big Bend Sector is responsible for. Aside from the Presidio port of entry, it's mostly a rugged, remote area.
"The landscape is just unforgiving. Everything pokes you, prods you. There's snakes. There's heat and cold extremes. The weather. Everything is hard on people in this part of the world if you're out in it on foot day after day," said Public Affairs Officer of Border Patrol Big Bend Sector, Rush Carter.
Those who decide to cross the border illegally often choose another region to cross but that doesn't rule out the Big Bend region completely. Take the Pinto Canyon Road for example. While many take the road for an alternate scenic route, others have a different purpose.
"This can be a smuggling route for vehicles coming up because it is a direct route from the river and there's no checkpoint on this road," said Carter.
Pinto Canyon serves as a daily route for Border Patrol agents. They drive looking for indications like footprints or kicked over rocks so they can follow the signs and determine who they came from.
"We've apprehended Chinese, Russians, you get all kinds. Especially at our checkpoints. You encounter different nationalities than you do on the border down here with Mexico," said Carter.
Border Patrol says for many who cross the border, since they can't rely on cell signal out here, they'll use what are called markers such as a cemetery down the road from Riudosa, in case they want to meet up with someone else and make their way from there.
Although agents prepare the land each day to look for tracks or disturbances, a trend makes footprints difficult to notice.
"One of the things [illegal immigrants] like to do now is put carpet on the bottom of their shoes so it's hard to see the footprints," said Chief Patrol Agent of the Big Bend Sector, John Smietana.
Agents say most activity of attempted crossings happens during the night and the majority of smugglers don't pack lightly.
"A lot of the smuggling that happens here is by backpack. People are carrying packs that may weigh between 50 and 100 pounds," said Smietana.
The Big Bend route isn't as cost effective either for drug organizations. Meaning they'd pay more to cross a small amount through here compared to another region.