Apr 13, 2013 9:32 PM
BROOKS COUNTY, TX --Capitol Hill lawmakers are expected to announce the 2013 immigration reform bill next week.
Nationwide, illegal immigration is down. That's not the case to our south, where immigrants cross daily, sometimes making it to the Coastal Bend.
Despite a dramatic drop in illegal immigration nationwide, South Texas, along the Rio Grande, is now seeing a rise in immigrants crossing the Mexican border, as many flee the poverty and violence in Central America.
Drug trafficking is also rampant, inflaming the arguments over comprehensive immigration reform.
"What we have here an unknown grave, an unknown person," said Brooks County Chief Deputy Benny Martinez, as he showed the cameras all the unmarked graves in his county.
Last year, officials there found the corpses of 129 immigrants who died after crossing the border.
Martinez fears immigration reform will spark even more illegal border crossings. "It has to, it just makes sense it'll increase the volume of people coming across," he said.
Elsewhere along the border, in Southern Arizona, NBC News hid motion-sensitive cameras and recorded images of drug smugglers crossing private land.
It's a concern for one Arizona rancher and mother who would only speak with her face hidden, and who says smugglers routinely cross her land.
She argues immigration reform cannot begin without first securing the border.
"I would say that's definitely not secure at all. And until you can stop that, really, talks about anything else are just a waste of time," she said.
But, another view is that a comprehensive immigration agreement could actually help secure the border, by reducing the undocumented immigrant flow.
"Now you free up agents to focus on narco-traffickers who continue to plague our border," explained Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napoloitano.
She says it's not only important to regulate the immigrant flow, but also crack down on hiring violations. "We want to make it easier for the employers to verify the legal residency, the legal presence of those who are working," Napolitano said, "and we need to make it harder for someone in the country illegally to find a job."
While most agree the current immigration system is broken, the argument persists over how to repair it without threatening border security.