Smuggler caught in the act crossing group of migrants into US. But what happens next?

An invisible line on the Rio Grande River separates Mexico from Texas, making it difficult to apprehend smugglers

Eagle Pass, TEXAS – Eagle Pass remains the epicenter of immigrant crossings.

According to a tweet from the US Border Patrol’s Del Rio Chief Patrol Agent Jason Owens, 3,431 apprehensions took place over the weekend, with nine of those immigrants discovered to be criminals.

While some immigrants take the risk to wade the Rio Grande River waters on their own, others paid to be guided.

“We have (agents) out along the border. We have cameras and technology,” Owens said. “As soon as we detect people approaching the river from the south side, our folks are moving.” During a boat tour for media last week with the agency’s boat patrol, KSAT photojournalist Sal Salazar captured a group of five people using a rope to make their way across the river.

“That’s the guide, right?,” asked one of the agents on the boat.

A young man wearing a black hat, dark sunglasses, a black T-shirt and neck gaiter to cover his face is identified by agents as the guide. He leads four migrants from Venezuela to the US, holding the hand of one of the women. As the two Border Patrol agents approach him on a boat, the young man takes his glasses off to make eye contact and remains calm as he makes his way back to Mexico. The federal agents keep a close eye on the man, but do not take him into custody. On the river bank, a Mexican rescue boat approaches and briefly speaks to the guide.

According to the agents, the rescue boat on the Mexican side does not have authority to detain a person, including a smuggler. Only the Mexican military or local police in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, can detain and arrest the man. However, no patrols were seen nearby.

As per US officials, CBP told KSAT that a guide or smuggler cannot be detained on the US side in order to not risk the safety of the agents.

The man eventually disappeared into the brush in Mexico, but it likely will not be his last trip.

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About the Authors

Alicia Barrera is a KSAT 12 News reporter and anchor. She is also a co-host of the streaming show KSAT News Now. Alicia is a first-generation Mexican-American, fluent in both Spanish and English with a bachelor's degree from Our Lady of the Lake University. She enjoys reading books, traveling solo across Mexico and spending time with family.

Sal Salazar is a photojournalist at KSAT 12. Before coming to KSAT in 1998, he worked at the Fox affiliate in San Antonio. Sal started off his career back in 1995 for the ABC Affiliate in Lubbock and has covered many high-profile news events since. In his free time, he enjoys spending time at home, gaming and loves traveling with his wife.

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