What is the real situation at the Texas-Mexico border? ABC13 went there for answers

Tom Abrahams Image
Tuesday, February 6, 2024
What's really happening along Texas' border? Take a first-hand look
How close is Congress to a deal that would address the ongoing immigration crisis? ABC13 traveled to the border to get some answers.

The signs of trafficking are seemingly everywhere along the border in and around Hidalgo County. ABC13 traveled the region with a bipartisan Texas congressional delegation and gained insight from border patrol union vice president Chris Cabrera in daylight and at night.

"It's a daily occurrence. Just look at the fence. Look at the fence and that will tell you everything you need to know," Cabrera said, standing in front of a damaged fence. "Once they come through here and get in a vehicle they're gone."

As our cameras rolled at the border at 11 o'clock on a Friday night where a group of 22 illegal migrants approached border agents. They turned themselves in. They were all families except for one person.

That group was from Venezuela, Ecuador, and Nicaragua. But there are those who arrive from all over the world and they are coming in increasing numbers.

"We have got to get a grip on this and my district is extremely angry and mad at the Biden administration," said Republican Congressman Randy Weber of Galveston County. "They're not securing the border."

According to the latest data from Customs and Border Protection, the total border encounters in December were up markedly year to year and an 80% increase in 24 months.

Of those migrants we found those from China were up 205% in a year. Russian migrants dropped after a threefold increase in 2022. Haitian migrants jumped 323% year to year, while those from India stayed steady after nearly doubling from 2021 to 2022.

But perhaps the more alarming statistic depicts those on the Terror Watch List detained between ports of entry along the southwest border. There were 169 last year after 98 the year before and just 15 two years ago. So far this fiscal year there are 49. And those are ones who got caught.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has taken a hard stance some have called unreasonable or even heartless. Operation Lone Star launched nearly three years ago. He issued a disaster declaration covering 48 Texas counties. He's touted building a wall, deployed troops, and bragged about busing migrants to so-called sanctuary cities in other states, spending tens of millions of dollars in doing so.

Congresswoman Monica De La Cruz, who represents communities along the border, thinks the busing is effective policy.

"When we started having them be part of the process," Rep. De La Cruz told ABC13, "and experience some of the illegal immigration and how it effects our communities, now they're singing a different tune."

And yet, Abbott continues the busing and is defying a Supreme Court order to cut razor wire at a park in which Texas has seized control from the feds.

Democrat Congressman Henry Cuellar agrees the state should be involved but says the state should not work against the federal government.

"The only concern I have with the state is when they do lone ranger politics. They do things alone," Cuellar said. "If we could communicate, coordinate, and work together I think the state and the federal government along with the local folks, the local law enforcement can really provide strong border security."

But can they when nothing has changed in decades? When -- no matter who is in power -- the issue remains the same. In May 2005 ABC13 interviewed rancher Mike Vickers in Falfurrias before he later formed a citizen border patrol.

"We're being invaded," Vickers said. "This is a huge invasion from people all over the world."

I followed border patrol then -- nearly 20 years ago -- as they took non-Mexican undocumented immigrants to a bus stop and let them go with only the promise of showing up in court.

Republicans controlled the House and Senate and promised change.

"We're trying to lock that down so that people seeking asylum goes through a process," said then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. "We follow through. They don't get away from us."

But Congress failed to pass border legislation then and now. And that is why House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul brought the bipartisan delegation to the valley.

"It's a human tragedy every day," Chairman McCaul said. "It has to stop. And we have to do it bipartisan because nothing will pass on this unless it's bipartisan."He said it would take all sides to turn off the faucet and mop up, as Chris Cabrera put it during our tour, cleaning up the signs of seemingly unmitigated migration.

RELATED: Chairman of House Foreign Affairs Committee on Texas border crisis: 'It's a human tragedy'

"I think this hurts the entire country, the fabric of this nation. It's a human tragedy," a chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee told ABC13 about his perspective on the border crisis.

For updates on this story, follow Tom Abrahams on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.