The Rio Grande is a bursting melee of Border Agents, traffickers and migrants

RomaLos Saenz, United States, March 30 2021: “Chuchi”, a human trafficker, better known as “pollero” in the local language, works through the night smuggling batches of illegal migrants across the Rio Grande and onto US soil on his inflatable boat.

His “work” starts as the sun sets and within the first hour he has already smuggled 50 immigrants from Honduras and Guatemala into Texas. The Customs and Border Patrol agents have a camaraderie with the smugglers across the river, as long as they stay away from US soil.  CBP agents have been known to  warn the traffickers to land in places not patrolled by the Texas state police to avoid detection. The agents admit theirs is a hard job, separating loved ones just as much as tearing people from their valued possessions as they are “booked”.

Most migrants, including unaccompanied minors run into the CBP agents eventually and surrender voluntarily, hoping for clemency and asylum.

The traffickers on the other hand, see it as just another job, and a relatively well paying one at that. It “pays the bills” according to “Chuchi” who refuses to consider it a crime in any conventional sense and often circumvents action against himself by using the onboard children as an excuse to invoke the sympathies of the border patrol. “Chuchi” who refuses to give his real name for fear of being apprehended, has “US citizen children” according to his own account.

The “polleros” work alongside active drug cartels and rival clashes can result in violence and bloodshed, again, the trafficker refuses to specify who he “works for”. An unprecedented number of migrants were detained this February and most of them deported with the exception of minors and some families, in deference to the now more liberal policy of President Joe Biden.

The migrants are either determined or have few alternatives. Dani, a father of a little girl, makes the trip a second time after being deported 2 weeks ago. His reason, he says is the insufficient  salary he earns in Honduras. Families separated for years, hope to be reunited and will pay whatever it takes to gain entry, though they refuse to say how much they paid the smugglers.

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