ACUNA, Mexico—The singular focus is palpable. Once migrants leave the bus station in the Mexican border city of Acuña, it’s a brief taxi ride or walk to the banks of the Rio Grande and to their ultimate goal—the United States.
The taxi driver charges 50 pesos for the three-minute drive, double the regular fare, but no one quibbles.
A rocky but well-worn path leads down to the shore, and the migrants walk briskly and with purpose. Many, especially the Haitians, pause to tear up and discard the paperwork they have with them—passports, visas, and identification cards are strewn all over the ground. They’re told it’s harder to be deported from the United States if they don’t bring ID.
Two elderly Mexican men are raking through the trash to find anything of value. To them, the passports are trash. They end up among the piles to be burned, as evidenced by the numerous heaps of ashes.
Once on the riverbank, the United States is in sight—a short wade across to “Disneyland,” as one Haitian put it.
Some quickly take off their shoes or strip down to their shorts and step into the Rio Grande. It gets waist high within the first 90 feet, but it’s not swift and it levels out to ankle-deep.
Minutes later, they exit the river at a clearing in the carrizo cane on the U.S. side.
Over a 50-minute period in one location, The Epoch Times watched 36 people cross, all from Haiti and Cuba.
Many of the Cubans were ultimately heading to Miami or Orlando, while the Haitians’ destinations included Boston, New York, and Indianapolis.
After hitting U.S. soil and changing out of their wet clothing, they walk about a mile on a dirt road to the border fence on Frontera Road in Del Rio, Texas, where they wait for Border Patrol.
A proxy port of entry has formed at the fence as Border Patrol and State Troopers bring in shade tents and water, and National Guard is stationed at the gate. Two months ago, the proxy port of entry was through a private property a few miles upriver.
Most of the family units will be quickly processed and released with a notice to report to their local Immigration and Customs Enforcement office within 60 days of arriving at their destination. Most of the single males will be sent back across to Mexico, to likely try again in the next few days.
Back on the Acuña side, just downstream, young Mexican men can be seen walking back across the river lugging bags full of the clothes and shoes discarded on the U.S. side. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
The buses full of migrants that terminate in Acuña often come from Monterrey, a common destination for the migrants who fly into Mexico before heading to the United States. From Monterrey in northeastern Mexico, travel is more direct to the border plazas across from the Texas cities of McAllen or Laredo, but Acuña is considered safer and cheaper.
The Epoch Times learned that some Monterrey bus lines exist specifically for the migrant flow and are separate from the regular buses.
Those bus lines are “absolutely” cartel-controlled, said Jaeson Jones, former captain of the Texas Department of Public Safety intel division and current host of “Tripwires & Triggers.”
“There is no doubt. They are not going to miss an opportunity right now to make money,” Jones told The Epoch Times. “They’re not getting through without [the cartels] knowing.”
Monterrey is a vital location for politics as well as a “key distribution location” for bringing people and contraband to the United States, he said.
“They’re all there. All of them,” Jones said, including Los Zetas, the Gulf Cartel, Cartel del Noreste, Sinaloa, Jalisco New Generation Cartel, and Beltrán Leyva Organization.
Several Haitians told The Epoch Times that they had caught buses to Acuña from Tapachula, the southwestern Mexican city that borders Guatemala. The price they said they paid ranged from 2,800 to 3,600 pesos per person ($140 to $180). No one wanted to talk about any other taxes or fees they paid along the way.
The Del Rio border sector has increasingly become a favored crossing spot, especially since the 2019 border surge. Agents are apprehending an average of 1,000 illegal immigrants per day in the area. Along the whole southwest border, Border Patrol agents are currently apprehending an average of 6,300 illegal immigrants daily.
More than 15,000 Venezuelans have been apprehended in the Del Rio sector over the past four months, according to Customs and Border Protection.
Border Patrol agents in the sector apprehended more than 4,000 Haitians and 1,700 Cubans in June, compared to 89 and 57 respectively in June 2020.