DEL RIO, Texas — A record number of migrants are crossing from Mexico into the United States in the Del Rio area.
Border Patrol officials said the area is ranked second for the highest number of migrant encounters along the southwest border.
On Thursday, neighbors in Del Rio voiced their concerns to senior Border Patrol officials during the State of the Southwest Border address, hoping to find some answers.
Residents said they’re afraid of the unknown, and the possibility of the situation turning dangerous.
“Now it’s scary because you don’t know who’s walking up to your door,” said longtime resident Ted Luce.
Luce said he’s run ranches on properties in Kinney and Val Verde Counties for decades.
He said it’s only in the last few months that he’s seen large groups of migrants crossing his ranch every day.
“The scary part is every day when I’m on the ranch, and being by myself. I don’t know if there’s gonna be 10 or 20 coming to get me,” said Luce.
Luce is just one of many locals that came to the Del Rio Civic Center Thursday for the Border Patrol’s State of the Southwest Border Address.
Another local resident who asked that we not use his name said he’s concerned about the large number of single men crossing his property at all hours.
“It’s hundreds a day,” he said. “I’ve had about a 50 percent success rate on whether or not I get an agent to come out to my place when I call.”
Del Rio Border Patrol Sector Chief Austin Skero said that on many days there are only 12 agents patrolling over 240 miles of border, as most are inundated with processing the large number of migrants.
“If you have undocumented migrants on your land, call us, we’ll get there,” said Skero. “I just can’t guarantee right now how fast we’re going to get there.”
The cry for help has not gone unnoticed by the newly selected Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, Raul Ortiz.
The Del Rio native said agents from the north are coming to help with processing. He said his mission is to support agents, and put more back on the ground to protect the front lines.
“It’s a national security issue, it’s not just about immigration,” said Ortiz. “All kinds of threats are coming across the border.”
Officials report the Del Rio Sector is encountering over 1,000 migrants a day.
“We’ve seen these increases, these surges for the last 30 to 40 years,” said Skero. “It’s never been this bad.”
Skero said the real story though is the criminal migrants trying to avoid authorities.
“We’ve had a 1400 percent increase in sex offenders trying to get away from us,” said Skero.
Skero said the addition of 400 Texas State Troopers across the region has helped with manpower.
He said out-of-state troopers are also on the way to help patrol ranch roads, the often used routes for human smugglers trying to evade authorities.
Ortiz said the situation won’t be fixed overnight, but pledged to work with senior officials to do more.
“When we think about what happening out there, it’s a daunting task,” said Ortiz.
“I’m going to be as transparent as I possibly can be, if I don’t know the answer, I’m not going to try to sugar coat it or tell you something differently. I’m going to tell you from where I sit in Washington DC, what we’re working on, what we’re doing to try to improve the situation in our border communities,” said Ortiz.