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May 19th 2019

Protecting the Border

We begin on the Southern border where the number of illegal immigrants caught by Border Patrol continues to go up. Border Patrol says it caught more than 109-thousand illegal immigrants in April alone. The number of “family units” apprehended is up 400% over last year. Full Measure special correspondent Lara Logan takes us on a trip with Border Patrol by land and water for a first hand account without the hype.

Agent: Those people that are trying to avoid apprehensions, they’ve had problems with either border patrol or other law enforcement agencies.

Lara Logan: So people with criminal records?

Agent: It’s possible yes.

Lara Logan: We saw some of the resources it takes to track down those who don’t want to get caught. Agents plunged into the dense brush, behind a specially trained dog who followed the scent. It was thick with thorns and infested with ticks, hot and humid...and at times the dog lost the scent, but not for long.

You could really tell when the dog picked up the scent because she sped up and she found them hiding here. Lara Logan: The group, barely visible through the bushes, was huddled together, possibly trying to avoid the helicopter, the agents’ eyes in the sky. They were handcuffed, marched out, then processed and searched at the side of the road.

Agent: This right here, what happens, it happens day in and day out, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Lara Logan: Day and night 7 days a week?

Agent: Correct.

Lara Logan: Here in the Rio Grande Valley, Border Patrol apprehends on average a-thousand people every day, many of them on this dirt road that leads right to the border.

Agent: This is a father and daughter right here.

Lara Logan: Unlike the group you just saw, these people give themselves up. Many claim asylum and are given court dates several years down the road. Few are approved.

Agent: They’re exposing what’s commonly referred to as a loophole in the system, so we don’t have enough capacity and we can only detain them for so many days.

Lara Logan: They’re coming in record numbers. One group after another. We saw four in a less than an hour.

Lara Logan: It feels like they just keep coming, every time we turn around there’s another one.

Agent: That what you see right now is a common occurrence.

Lara Logan: Every agent processing people is one less agent to secure the border.

Agent: There’s areas that are not being guarded due to the amount of resources it’s taken to accommodate these people.

Lara Logan: So does that worry you?

Agent: It worries everybody.

Lara Logan: What you don’t see among these groups are the smugglers and cartels who sent these people here, people like this tiny boy...alone...with just his Aunt’s name and US cell number on the inside of his shirt.

Lara Logan: Does he know where his aunt his? Agent: In the states, just not sure where.

Lara Logan: For every person Border Patrol stops, they say many more are getting through. They’re already overwhelmed - what worries them now is being overrun.

Lara Logan: Many people don’t realize that the southern Border with Mexico is not all government land and checkpoints - in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, the entire border is not even on land, it’s in the water. Two boat crews, 52 miles of river, and a war without end. Mexican cartels on one side, Border Patrol on the other, searching for migrants making a quick dash across the Rio Grande. Captain Deb: a small group will be 4-5, a big group will be 5 or 6 rafts of 20 each, so 120, oh yea.

Lara Logan: It’s not a question of ‘if’ for Vessel Commander, Deborah Villarreal, it’s ‘when?’ and ‘how many?’

Captain Deb: I’ve been in for 21 years. And it’s the worst I’ve ever seen.

Lara Logan: All along the river’s twists and turns, the eyes of the cartels are watching and waiting. The agents said they often see their scouts posted along the riverbank they’re also picked up by helicopters, cameras and surveillance blimps.

Lara Logan: so you want people to know you have all this surveillance so they don’t try to cross. Yes. How’s that working out? They still try to cross. A lot? Every day every time.

Lara Logan: It’s a 30 second ride to America if they make it - with a big price tag. And unlike the US, the Mexican side of the border is secure: the Cartels control it all.

The agents pointed out well-worn landing sites carved out of mud and reeds, and took us to one they said is used often. Looking around, you have a sense of all the people that have come through here. Fragments of their journey and the lives they’ve left behind.

Agent: This is only one little spot, so imagine thousands of people coming through here and all the corners of the river.

Lara Logan: Agent Lebron took us down the path they take from here....their path to America. Here they can walk or wait for Border Patrol and give themselves up, unless they run. Suddenly, rafts were spotted crossing, back up the river.

Agents: Go! Go! Go!

The race was on....agents roared up the Rio Grande to stop them, topping 50 miles an hour. Their arrival interrupted the smugglers, still in sight on the Mexican side, carrying a raft along the shore. It was interesting to watch as they heckled the border agents from the safety of their home turf, interrupted but still enough time to get two rafts across with their cargo — 15 migrants who’d reached the US side, and were quickly apprehended by other agents on horseback.

Lara Logan: it’s kind of a win for them right I mean that’s what they're trying to do .

Agent Lebron: They did what they wanted. They crossed. The smugglers got back, no problem. We didn’t get the raft. We didn’t get any smugglers. Basically they did what they wanted.

Lara Logan: So they won.

Agent Lebron: Basically.

Lara Logan: It’s not even rush hour for the agents on the Rio Grande. They said that would start when then sun goes down.