(CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR) ENCINO — Elias Pompa had a thousand square miles of backcountry to patrol by himself, but now all he could see was the red Texas clay coating his windshield. “Damn dirt,” the sheriff’s deputy said, turning on his wipers, trying to follow the road as dusk closed in on him 11 hours into his shift. The gravel lane turned into two trail ruts, and the trail disappeared in sand and mesquite. He checked his location on a map, but the nearest marked road was three miles away.

He had been dispatched to this part of Brooks County to investigate an open window at an abandoned ranch building — another potential break-in in the nation’s busiest corridor for illegal immigration, where break-ins could mean any number of things. He had driven this way before to investigate robberies where the only item missing was water, stolen by groups of migrant children crossing the desert alone. He had come to confront drug cartel members carrying backpacks loaded with knives and 70 pounds of marijuana. He had come to rescue immigrants dying of dehydration and he had come when it was too late, carrying a state-issued body bag.

Now he quieted the engine and rolled down his window, hoping a sound might guide him. He listened to the wind and the cries of the buzzards and then, off in the distance, the creak of a rusted windmill. He followed the noise over a hill and through the brush until he saw it, a ramshackle, unoccupied house with a bedroom window cracked open on the second floor, and then, from inside that window, a sudden flutter of movement.

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