Far from the booming downtown, behind a metal front gate, the windows and doors were shut and barred on the cinder-block house where Mr. Cruz was kept. Trash was everywhere.
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The small courtyard was filled with mud and debris. Ants and cockroaches crawled indoors. The only water ran brown and unfiltered from the faucet. A terrible smell wafted from the bathroom. Migrants like Mr. Cruz had to pay their captors to bring them bottled water or snacks, if they even had the cash to pay prices that were triple those at the local convenience store. Otherwise food arrived only every other day, in the form of a carton of 30 eggs to feed the dozen or so people typically there. At night, Mr.
Every day smugglers dropped off and picked up migrants, who were kept locked inside. He had run out of money to continue his journey a month and a half earlier. Cruz was stuck there for four days. Tamaulipas has become known for violent confrontations between organized crime groups, and migrants caught in the middle have been massacred.
In the summer of , the corpses of 72 migrants killed by cartel members were discovered there in San Fernando. The message was clear: Crossing into the United States without permission from the drug traffickers, or narcos, who controlled the border territory could be lethal. The house where Mr. Cruz was kept in Matamoros was better maintained than the hovel in Monterrey. He and the 30 other migrants could bathe with buckets of water from a pair of concrete basins with spigots outside.
The men watching the house, tied to the narcos, brought them beers and even offered them drugs from bundles of cocaine and marijuana. After sending off the migrants with drugs one day, the traffickers returned to the stash house seething. Cruz recalled, not because the migrants had been arrested but because they had lost their shipment of drugs. Cruz was sick. The temperature along his journey had yo-yoed 40 degrees as the altitude climbed to 7, feet in Puebla before dropping to sea level in Matamoros. Cruz was eager to leave the house in Matamoros, but his coughing spasms gave the smugglers pause.
His uncle asked Mr. Cruz if the Mexican woman from the smuggling network could insist that they move him anyway. But Mr. Cruz realized she had little sway at the border. Doses of cough syrup, along with several days of rest, seemed to help. That Saturday night Mr. The region, where the Rio Grande coils and bends in switchbacks, has become the central battleground of the southwest frontier for illegal entries.
Some , people were caught trying to cross here in , close to half of all those apprehended from the California coast all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
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Illegal crossings fell significantly in the initial months of the Trump administration but shot up this year: From March to May, the number of migrants apprehended along the southwest border was triple the total for the same period in , though far below the levels of a decade or two ago. Last year Customs and Border Protection intercepted , people there — compared with more than 1. Cruz was trying to cross. For all the debate about Mr. Doughy blimps equipped with cameras provide video surveillance, with thermal imaging for nighttime. Migrants unknowingly trip advanced seismic sensors with their first steps on American soil.
The number of Border Patrol agents has grown to about 20, from roughly 9, in , while budgets have quadrupled, spent on everything from all-terrain vehicles and horse patrols to helicopters and advanced reconnaissance drones. That gives the Border Patrol a much better chance of combating criminal smuggling networks, which use Facebook and Craigslist to recruit drivers, satellite phones and encrypted communication applications to direct them, night-vision technology to scan for patrols, and off-the shelf tracking devices to monitor moving vehicles.
Early that morning, the smugglers gathered Mr. Cruz, one of two dozen migrants from two stash houses in town, and crammed them into the back of an S. Wedged into a corner of the trunk with the weight of his fellow migrants crushing down on him, Mr. Cruz struggled to catch his breath. The migrants in his group began to mount the border fence.
But the Border Patrol descended, grabbing some of the first arrivals. He realized he had to turn back. As was customary, the smugglers would give him three tries to make it across safely. One chance was gone. Cruz steeled himself to try again at a different bend along the river.
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The temperature had climbed to 93 degrees by midday Sunday when Mr. Cruz made his second illegal visit to the United States, at another crossing nearby. It was even shorter than his first. Border Patrol agents swarmed the group as they made landfall on the north bank again. One agent got a hand on Mr. Swallowing water and struggling to stay afloat, Mr. Cruz said, he barely managed to swim back to Mexico.
The sun was low and dusk approaching by the time the coyotes brought the migrants to their third crossing point. The smugglers said the spot, more isolated, was usually reserved for moving drug shipments, more valuable than migrants. Cruz would have to swim across the Rio Grande for the fifth time that day. Of the 17 people left from the two dozen in the morning, Mr. Cruz recalled, five were women, including one who appeared about eight months pregnant and another in her 50s, he guessed.
He wondered how they would make it, but his family had warned him: Worry about yourself. Do not stop for anyone. Cruz could hardly believe the determination of the pregnant woman as they emerged from the river again and started to run. But the older woman slipped behind and fell to the ground. The guide did nothing. The driver of the waiting S. He was angry, expecting just a few migrants to crawl out of the South Texas field and instead finding 16 people.
In a region full of Border Patrol agents, it was a risky load to carry.
The driver told Mr. Cruz to ride shotgun, and he saw bundles of cocaine on the passenger seat. But it was only a short drive to a parking lot where the smugglers separated the group into different cars, depending on their destinations. Cruz and five others got into a Cadillac headed an hour northwest to a stash house in McAllen, Tex. Drop-offs and pickups are often meticulously planned so that migrants are ready to jump in as soon as the car pulls up. Smugglers sometimes mark migrants with colored tape to quickly sort who is going where.
Smugglers often drive two cars, using one to draw the attention of law enforcement and another to carry the migrants. Border Patrol officers have grown more aggressive in their search for unauthorized immigrants throughout the mile band of territory inside the United States border, where they have authority to establish checkpoints and perform searches. He estimated there were 70 people inside. They were given no food and were not allowed to speak to one another or even move without permission.
Neighbors in border regions can be quick to report suspected stash houses. More than a third of all those busted by Customs and Border Protection last year — out of in the Southwest — were in the Rio Grande Valley, where Mr. Cruz was. After just a day and a half in McAllen, Mr. Cruz huddled with four other migrants in the sleeping compartment of a tractor-trailer headed to San Antonio.
They were nearly discovered by agents during a routine search at a highway checkpoint, cowering under blankets as they felt someone check the bedding they were hiding under. Cruz was transferred to a minivan with a concealed compartment built under the back seat, where he hid for part of the ride. Two days passed. Even with the precautions, one of the payments was flagged, canceled and had to be re-sent to a different recipient. Only when the final installment arrived in Mexico could Mr.
Cruz go. The smugglers drove him to a gas station. There he saw the familiar face of his uncle. Cruz began to cry. Relief at finishing his journey did not last long. Cruz was now in an unfamiliar country, where he did not speak the language and could not legally hold a job. He would have to hide in plain sight. Cruz looked ahead to earning enough money to begin the cycle again, paying for his son, his sister and his grandmother to join him in the United States. Please upgrade your browser.
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Site Navigation Site Mobile Navigation. San Antonio. Gulf of Mexico. Mexico City. Malpaso Dam. Pacific Ocean. Guatemala City. San Salvador. San Diego. El Paso. A screenshot Mr. In El Salvador, Mr. Cruz earned a few dollars a day picking coffee during harvest season. Cruz crossed into Guatemala legally with his national identity card. La Hachadura. The bus terminal in Huehuetenango, a Guatemalan city that is often the last stop for migrants heading into Mexico. Cruz made it to Puebla, paying hundreds of dollars in bribes to police officers along the way.
On my way back to Puebla. Cruz spent four days in Monterrey, locked in a dingy stash house far from the bustling downtown. A patrol near the border in Matamoros. Chang W. We have to pass the river and the wall and then be picked up. The Rio Grande, which Mr. Ebook Download Captains Stupendous Book. Ebook Download Carn Mo'r Book. Ebook Download Catawampus Tales Book. Ebook Download Chaderick: Not a Vampire. Not a Zombie. Not a Superhero. Ebook Download Chained Reflections Book. Ebook Download Changing Faces Book. Ebook Download Chariots to Jordan Book.
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