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South Texas Border Seeing A Spike In Immigrant Crossings

Monica Ortiz Uribe/Fronteras Desk

While apprehensions of immigrants crossing the Mexican border are near record lows, South Texas is the one spot where the numbers are rising again, according to a recent report from Fronteras Desk,a public radio initiative involving several stations across the Southwest.

"We could apprehend anywhere between 100 and 200 a shift," said Mark Foster, a Border Patrol supervisor. "On the weekend, it’s very hard to get all the incursions dealt with, with the manpower that we have."

The Border Patrol is shifting more manpower and resources to South Texas, including night vision technology and mobile towers. By the end of this year the Rio Grande Valley Sector expects to have 600 more agents.

For the first six months of the fiscal year, ending in March, the U.S. Border Patrol has detained nearly 200,000 people along the Mexican border.

The Arizona Republic reports that in March,the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector had 15,009 apprehensions, compared with 16,100 in the Rio Grande Valley Sector. The Tucson Sector's March apprehensions fell 9 percent from a year earlier, while the Rio Grande Valley's rose 67 percent.

In some areas, trying to slip into the U.S. has gotten deadlier. Last year, Brooks County recovered 129 dead bodies of immigrants, up from 20 bodies three years ago.

The Fronteras story featured Lavoyger Durham, who looks after 13,000 acres on El Tule Ranch west of the county seat of Falfurrias.

It's rough country: oppressive heat, thorny thickets, insects and snakes. The immigrants come through his land to avoid the Border Patrol checkpoint on U.S. Highway 281 south of town. In the past two decades Durham has found his share of bodies. A telltale sign, he said, is a circle of buzzards. "Actually you're pretty lucky when you find a dead one," he said.  "Because the coyotes and the vultures and the javelinas eat them up. And then they scatter all the bones." The majority of those coming across now are from Central American countries like Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Violence in that region has made their lives impossible, they say, so they flee.

Click here to read more on this story, listen to the radio version or watch a slideshow of pictures along the border.

Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.