Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Patrolling the Border on Four Legs

LA GRULLA, Tex. — Manuel Torresmutt, a Border Patrol agent, pulls his white and green Chevy Tahoe to the side of a deserted gravel road, framed on one side by railroad tracks and on the other by thick green brush. The South Texas sun streams brightly as Mr. Torresmutt, a stocky, 24-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol, steps from his truck to meet with his three-man team. A radio dispatcher says “four bodies” have been spotted on the “Mike” side, referring to the code name for the bank of the Rio Grande in Mexico...President Trump has promised to build a wall to stop the flow of illegal immigrants in areas like this, but the geography — like shallow riverbanks and craggy trails that are impassable for vehicles — makes that nearly impossible and staggeringly expensive. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the United States has spent over $100 billion on various border security technology, including ground sensors, video cameras, walls, layers of fencing and infrared cameras. But in the thicket along the river where smugglers can easily hide, the horse patrol unit plays an essential role in efforts to detect illegal activity. A little over an hour after riding off into the bush, Mr. Torresmutt and another agent, David Garcia, return to the staging area. Two other agents, Garrett Gremes and Kelby Forbes, are chasing a man who has made it past both the horse patrol and agents in vehicles. As evening sets in and mosquitoes buzz, radio chatter signals that agents and local law enforcement officers have spotted drugs dumped on the Mexican side of the border. While the flow of migrants has slowed, drug smuggling remains constant. The signs are everywhere: Dozens of footprints, abandoned life jackets, swimming trunks and food wrappers appear along the riverbank...more

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