NEW YORK – In an effort to divert Border Patrol from their smuggling, Mexican drug cartels are forcing children and other illegal immigrants from Central America to swim across the Rio Grande, at the risk of drowning, rather than cross a bridge and surrender to U.S. authorities, according to a veteran Border Patrol agent.
“The Rio Grande is getting more dangerous every day,” said Chris Cabrera, an agent for nearly 13 years and a vice president in the National Border Patrol Council Local 3307.
Cabrera also told WND that Mexicans on the south side of the border were firing weapons now on a daily basis at Border Patrol agents patrolling the Rio Grande in boats.
“U.S. law enforcement doesn’t matter to them,” he said.
The intent of the gunfire isn’t necessarily to hit the agents, Cabrera explained, but to clear the area so the smugglers can run their cargo across without getting apprehended.
“That seems to be happening more and more all the time,” he said.
Cabrera said agents suspect .50 caliber rounds are being fired at Border Patrol on the river from Mexico.
Pushing them into the river
He advised against underestimating the increased danger.
“Unless one of our guys gets hit, you don’t know for sure the Mexicans across the river were aiming at you,” he said. “But it’s better to err on the side of caution.
“For anybody from Mexico to fire on the Border Patrol is a very serious issue that needs to be stopped now,” he said. “If not, we’re in for a long, hard road.”
Cabrera said he’s almost certain the increased violence is due to the Mexican drug cartels, “both with the weapons fired on Border Patrol on the river and the Central American kids and families being forced to cross the river instead of walking across the bridge and surrendering themselves to U.S. authorities.”
Cabrera explained that at any port of entry “these kids and families could just walk up and say, ‘Hey, I’m here to declare asylum, or whatever,’ and they would be processed by Border Patrol without having to go through all the perils crossing the river.”
“But the cartels are pushing the Central Americans into crossing the Rio Grande, knowing it will occupy the Border Patrol agents, so they can run the drugs or whatever they’re running around the ends without being bothered when our guys are tied up,” he said.
Cabrera emphasized how dangerous crossing the Rio Grande can be.
“This past Sunday, a group of kids and family units were crossing the Rio Grande on a raft,” he explained. “One of the kids fell off, and they just left him behind. Luckily, a game warden was nearby, and he went into the river to rescue the kid. Had it not been for that game warden, the kid would have drowned.”
Cabrera confirmed drownings occur frequently in Rio Grande crossings.
“The problem is that sometimes an illegal crossing the Rio Grande will drown in our area of operations, and it may take them three days to pop back up; and by then, the body is further downriver. Sometimes we find the people who have drowned and sometimes a Mexican fire department will find them.”
He stressed that drowning attempting to cross the Rio Grande happens often.
“So, we really don’t have a list of everybody, but I do know that we have seen a lot of people drown in that river – men, women and children. The most heartbreaking of all is the little children who don’t make it across – 10 years old, 5 years old, 3 years old. It’s terrible.”
Ports of entry
He confirmed that swimming or rafting across the Rio Grande was not the way most unaccompanied minors prefer to enter the United States, if left to their own choice.
“There are many ports of entry all along the Rio Grande all over the place down here where unaccompanied minors or family units could just walk up and surrender themselves,” he pointed out.
“They wouldn’t even be charged with illegal entry if an unaccompanied minor or family unit from Central America walks across a bridge over the Rio Grande and surrenders to the Border Patrol. But when the drug cartels force these women and children to cross the river, the drug cartels are forcing these people to enter the United States illegally, violating the law, not submitting to inspection.”
Cabrera explained that the unaccompanied minors and family units that attempt to cross the Rio Grande by swimming or rafting “have no say as to how they’re getting smuggled.”
“If these kids and families from Central America wanted to cross the bridge, if they told the smuggler, ‘Hey, I think it’s best if we just walk across that bridge,’ the smuggler may just say, ‘No, this time we’re doing it by raft. So get in.’”
At the border, the drug cartels are in control, he explained.
“It doesn’t matter if the coyote is a cartel smuggler or they’re just paying a tax to the cartel; the cartels are going to control what goes across the Rio Grande, where, when and how. That’s just the bottom line. These women and children don’t have a choice. If the drug cartels want them crossing the bridge, then they cross the bridge. If it’s more beneficial for the cartels to push these people across the river, then they are forced to cross the Rio Grande.”
He said tying up the Border Patrol with immigrants crossing the Rio Grande, prevents the agents from concentrating on “the real criminal threat that’s out there.”
Cabrera detailed the manpower the Border Patrol must put into illegal river crossings.
“We have to make sure the kids and families get out of the river safely,” he said. “You’re going to have to bring Border Patrol resources to pat them down and transport them. We also have to make sure the Border Patrol agents are safe. Then everybody gets loaded and driven to the Border Patrol station for processing.”
He said the drug cartels know the Border Patrol gets stretched thin.
Meanwhile, the drug cartels have the surrounding areas to cross the Rio Grande unmolested, making money with their drug trafficking, he explained.
“Unfortunately not only does the drug flow increase, but the apprehensions slow,” he noted. “On top of that, who knows who else is coming across – serious criminals or a really bad guy who knows U.S. law enforcement at the border is never going to release him because of his prior history. Who knows? That’s the problem.”