Local News

Jul 10, 2013 5:40 PM by Andrew Ellison - aellison@kristv.com

Special Report: Watching the Border for Free

FALFURRIAS - As the politically controversial immigration reform bill works its way through congress, there are an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants waiting to see its fate.

As democrats and republicans fight over the bill's details, we met up with a group of border volunteers in Brooks County, who say they're doing what they can to help.

The bill itself offers a possible, albeit lengthy, path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, while promising additional border security in the form of a 700 mile fence and 20 thousand more border agents.

But these volunteers operate in the ranch lands around the Falfurrias checkpoint, largely considered to be the last checkpoint illegal immigrants need to get past, in the western part of the coastal bend.

They call themselves the Texas Border Volunteers, and these volunteers have all kinds of day jobs, small business owners, I.T guys, etc. But here, they have nicknames like "golderdog" and "jazz".

They observe and report illegal traffic coming across the border to assist the Border Patrol, suffering from budget cuts, like less gasoline, limiting the amount of ground they can watch.

"There's no loose cannons out here, there's no vigilantes out here. And they love us because we're free eyes and hears and it's something they need," volunteer Ken Burr says.

"It doesn't matter if you hire 100,000 new border agents if they don't have the tools they need to do their job," he added.

The volunteers go out at night during peak traffic times. They say they've helped catch over 400 this year.

And that means they've seen the horrors those immigrants have to face.

"Usually they're dehydrated. And either in the early or late stages of dehydration," volunteer Tom Kyle says.

As the night went on, we were there as the volunteers found a man headed for Wisconsin, but he couldn't go any further because he sprained his knee.

He said he had been walking for three days with little food and water.

He said he had to try and make the journey for work.

We asked if there was work in Sonora, Mexico, where he's from.

"It's not that there's no work," he said, "the problem is that it's not paid well. You kill yourself for a salary that's not even worth it. And all the food is more expensive."

The Border Patrol came and got him while the volunteers detained him.

But even with the help they provide, the volunteers say they fear dwindling resources for the Border Patrol means it's just going to get worse.

"To me, it feels like the Texas Border Volunteers have their finger in a dike that has over a thousand leaks in it. Because we're just one small county and we're seeing, according to the Border Patrol office, we're seeing four to five hundred a day through this county," Burr says.

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