Two main groups of illegal immigrants come across the Rio Grande in Texas: those trying to run away from Border Patrol; and those actively looking for agents, to turn themselves in.
Both are paying smugglers thousands of dollars to get across the border, according to Border Patrol.
“There has been figures from $1,500 to all the way up to $20,000,” Border Patrol agent for the Rio Grande Sector, Carlos Ruiz, told NTD News on April 18.
Family units usually pay less because they’re being dropped off at the river bank and are seeking out agents.
“These people are charged a little bit less, from what we understand, since they’re just being dropped off and they actively look for Border Patrol,” Ruiz said. “So all they have to do is bring them across the river, so their charges are less, the smugglers don’t have to work as much.”
Whereas, those trying to evade apprehension are paying more.
“The people who are trying to bypass Border Patrol obviously pay more because they have to work a way to get around us,” he said.
A group of five Mexican nationals trying to run away from Border Patrol after crossing the Rio Grande on April 18 told NTD News they paid a smuggler a $1,500 deposit to get across the river. One man said they planned to pay the rest, $5,500, after they got across. “They were going to charge us $7,000.”
He said they were going to Houston, where they have family, to work.
Another man from China interviewed by NTD News after being apprehended by Border Patrol agents on April 18 said he paid $15,000 to fly to Mexico and cross the border illegally.
Dong Jin Shun, 35, was one in a group of seven Chinese nationals trying to run way from Border Patrol.
Dong said he stayed in a stash house on the Mexican side of the border before coming across. He said a friend in Beijing put him in contact with a smuggler and planned to go to New York.
Ruiz said the journey to enter the United States illegally includes meeting with a smuggler, also known as ‘coyote’, in Mexico.
“And once they meet with a coyote, they’re brought into stash houses and they are brought across as they pay.
“So once they pay their fees to get across the river, that’s how they’re brought across. So they keep them in stash houses, usually until their fees are paid or their trip is paid and then they put them in a raft and bring them over,” Ruiz said.
He said the smugglers push various groups—family units and those trying to evade apprehension—to different locations along the border during agents’ shift-change. This forces Border Patrol to focus their resources on processing the large family units, while those trying to evade apprehension slip through.
“One of the things the smugglers know very well is our shift times. They know when we have a shift change,” Ruiz said. “That tied up our resources and some groups we were able to apprehend. Some unfortunately got away from us, since it was too many and we lack the personnel and the infrastructure to apprehend them.”
As of April 23, Border Patrol has apprehended 164,000 illegal immigrants in the Rio Grande Sector, surpassing the total apprehensions in all of the fiscal year 2018.