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A first-hand look at the Border crisis: Katia Uriarte Reports

Our Katia Uriarte rides with Hidalgo County deputies for a first-hand look at the border situation
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Posted at 3:46 PM, Mar 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-26 09:09:30-04

HIDALGO COUNTY, Texas — It didn't take long.

Less than an hour into our ride along with Hidalgo County Deputy Constable Johan Moreno there they were: 110 wandering migrants, trying to figure out their next steps.

In the group, Moreno spots a little girl.

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Hidalgo County Deputy Constables guide a group of 110 Migrants towards a Border Patrol station.

¿"Cuantos años tienes tú"? Moreno asks how old she is.

"Nueve". Nine, she says.

¿"Nueve"? he asks.

She nods.

"And who do you come here with?" Moreno asks who accompanied her to the United States.

"Yo sola". She came by herself, she says.

"No conoces a nadie aquí?" The deputy clarifies, verifying that she doesn't know anyone in the group of migrants she is with.

"A nadie" She shakes her head no -- nobody, she says.

Julissa left El Salvador 21 days ago.

"Where's your dad?" I ask her in Spanish.

"En San Francisco, California," she replies.

I ask why she came by herself.

"Porque . . ." she says.

The little girl gives a child's answer: "Because." And then, she clams up -- she tenses up and won't say more.

And she's not the only minor without a family we see as we continue our ride-along.

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Deputy Constable Jhoan Moreno brings water to young migrants who just crossed the border

We run into another group, but this time its only five people.

But they're young.

Moreno grabs water from a cooler he carries in his truck. He walks over to give them the water and to find out how old they are, the specifics of when they crossed and where they were headed.

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These children say they hitched rides and walked for 2 months from Honduras to cross the border.

He finds it's a 16-year-old boy carrying his 5-year-old sister and walking with his other sister who is 9.

Also a teenage boy and a 12-year-old girl.

All strangers.

They crossed at different points and saw each walking. Then, they decided to walk together.

Finding each other on a dirt road in the U.S., not knowing who the other is or where they're going.

¿"Pagaron para cruzar”? I ask in Spanish.

“No", he says. "Nos dejaron (pasar), pero en medio de un montón de cubetas. Cosas así. Nos pasaron".

He says they didn’t have to pay to cross the border -- that "they" let them come buried in what he described as a sea of buckets.

The other young boy says he didn't have to pay either; some fishermen helped him cross over.

Moreno takes us to a spot in Anzalduas Park in Hidalgo county where you can see a spot in the Rio Grande River that is easy to cross. And is always being watched by scouts on the other side of the border.

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Deputy Constable Moreno and Katia Uriarte overlook into Reynosa as scouts on Mexico's border keep an eye on when is a good time to cross the into the U.S.

"A lot of those people out there are scouting the area," he says. "They're looking over to see who is working; what's going on on this side. They sit there. They know. That's what they do all day long."

He also points out some fisherman sitting by a nearby dam

"I've got people that have a fishing pole and the line's in the water, but there's nothing in the line," Moreno says. "So they're just pretending to fish. Waiting for the right time (to cross)."

And sure, people have crossed over illegally before, but according to Moreno, not to this extreme.

"Just earlier today I found out that they had about 1,000 people that crossed over in the Hidalgo area, and that's throughout the whole day," he says.

Even the smugglers have become very brazen, telling deputies what time they'll smuggle people in.

"Sometimes we've been out here by the river bank and we've had a raft come up to us and the smuggler will tell us," Moreno says. "Of course, he doesn't make it all the way. People get off it, and by the time we make it down there, he's not reachable."

"But he will tell us -- he will let us know -- 'Hey guys, today, you guys are done. But tomorrow, you guys will be busy,' So they'll tell us when they're ending their shift (basically). And for the most part, they're always accurate."

Constables, in general, deal with civil matters, like evictions and court orders, but these deputy constables are also helping Customs and Border Patrol.

Federal and state grants pay specifically for them to help round up undocumented immigrants crossing over, but they don't arrest anyone.

Their job is to guide the immigrants to the nearest Border Patrol station so they can turn themselves in and be processed.

"What's happening now is that the numbers are so high that they can't do the process of deportation because it's so many people and now they're being let go with probably a court date," he says.

It's information he says I would need to ask the U.S. Border Patrol for an exact answer; they say they will do an interview with me sometime next week.

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A group of 110 migrants cross into the U.S. Most are from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

So, Moreno and I continue looking for more people, and we soon come across a large group.

More than 100 migrants were walking, unescorted, along a dirt road in an area known as El Rincón. This group is made up of children with no family, young adults and families.

Each with stories no parent should have to tell.

"Había gente mala. Se mira prácticamente la muerte, cuchillo, pistola," a 21-year-old mother tells me in tears. There were bad people, she said. You could see death, (knives), gun(s).

"Yo solo pensaba en el niño" -- I only kept thinking about my child, she says.

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21 year old Migrant mom and her 2 year old son. She tells our Katia Uriarte the trek from Honduras to crossing the border was "horrible." Says she feared most for her son. Along the way she feared "bad men" were going to take her son. The men, she says, told her her son was "valuable."

Deputies guide the group where to go.

This is the third group we saw on our ride-along -- 300-plus migrants down a 20-to-25-mile-long stretch in less than 3 hours.

Quickly, light turns to dark.

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Migrants, all from different countries, walk towards a Border Patrol Station.

We come across another group in which four people are able to hide in the thick brush under the cover of darkness. The rest walk to the nearest Border Patrol station to turn themselves in.

What their fate is, we don't know.

U.S. Border Patrol will process them, and from there, they may go to a detention facility, be released into the country, or sent back to theirs.

Moreno points out the risk and the danger involved in trying to cross the border this way.

They should not be doing this," he said. "There's got to be a better way."