DEL RIO, Texas — Something strange is happening here in remote Val Verde County, Texas: the whole world is showing up. In recent months, migrants from far-flung places like Haiti, Venezuela, Africa, and even Uzbekistan have appeared on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande, and waded across. Their numbers include families with small children, pregnant women, and the elderly.
Not all of them make it. Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez says he and his deputies have seen nine drownings in the county since January — already double last year’s total. The first one was on Jan. 17, a 33-year-old woman from Haiti. “She was pregnant with twins, at term. So we’re counting all three.”
Residents of this vast stretch of Texas borderland, which sits about 150 miles west of San Antonio and shares more than 100 miles of border with the Mexican state of Coahuila, say nothing like this has ever happened before. In years past, a modest number of Mexicans might have crossed from the town of Acuña, across the river from Del Rio. But those were mostly men seeking work, often on the ranches that dominate the rough landscape here, a limestone plateau east of the Chihuahuan Desert cut by steep arroyos and watered by the immense Amistad Reservoir that spans the border.
Out on those ranchlands now, a completely different demographic of migrants is also crossing in near-record numbers: groups of single adults, mostly men, sometimes clad in camouflage and determined to evade law enforcement. They’re leaving behind cut fences, smashed gates, burned down barns, and burglarized houses.
And it doesn’t end when they get picked up by smugglers on the U.S. side. High-speed car chases have become commonplace here, says Sheriff Martinez, with nine fatalities so far this year.
In South Texas, Val Verde County Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez tells The Federalist that migrants are surging into the area, and a growing number are drowning while trying to cross the Rio Grande. Nine have drown since Jan. 18, compared to four all of last year. pic.twitter.com/oD3rJTQDVs
— The Federalist (@FDRLST) June 4, 2021
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