OUR GOOD FRIENDS AT TEXAS BORDER VOLUNTEERS are on the border catching illegals all the time. The Vickers family has a ranch that sees hundreds of illegals. Please read the first-hand account of what’s really been going on at our border:
MIKE VICKERS OF TEXAS BORDER VOLUNTEERS: “Probably 60 percent to 70 percent of the groups we encounter are not Mexican,” said Dr. Mike Vickers, who started the group and who owns a ranch in South Texas. “We see a lot of Chinese and people from India and Pakistan.”
LAREDO, TX – A wave of terrorist attacks abroad and here at home are sparking a new worldwide fear: how will we know if some immigrants, particularly Syrian refugees, are connected to terrorism? News 4 traveled to what many are calling the new front line: our border with Mexico. Two Syrian families recently presented themselves to authorities at a border bridge in Laredo. Now people in South Texas want to know – how did they get here, and how many more are on their way?
All day, every day, thousands of people cross by car, by bus and on foot – spilling out onto the main streets of Laredo. As she makes a Christmas wreath, flower shop owner Marta Narvaez says she’s scared. Narvaez tells us in Spanish she feels sorry for Syrians fleeing war in their homeland. But it’s also dangerous, she says, because we don’t know if some refugees are also terrorists.
“We try to piece the story together,” Webb County Medical Examiner Dr. Corinne Stern says. When someone dies on the journey north, she interviews the people who stayed with the body. We asked Dr. Stern how people from around the world are getting to Laredo. “It’s the same story. It’s the same story every time,” she says. “They’ll say we crossed the river at night. It’s always at night.” Always with the help of smugglers who run routes through Central America and Mexico – and it’s big business. “We ask how much did you pay the coyote,” Dr. Stern says. “The average I hear is $8,000 to $12,000. And somehow they come up with that money.” So far this year, her team has not found the body of anyone of Syrian descent. “But we know it’s happening. We know they’re trying to cross our border,” Dr. Stern says.
Now many lawmakers are calling for tougher border security laws. “I think the concern with Syria is: are these folks connected to ISIS?” Rep. Will Hurd (R – TX) says. His district includes almost all of Texas’ long border with Mexico. “I spent 9 years as an undercover officer in the CIA,” Rep. Hurd says. “I was chasing Al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I’ve been on some pretty nasty borders in my career so I know something about stopping bad guys.” He calls the terrorist attacks against the French and Russians warnings, and now America must decide how to handle Syrians at our border before it’s too late. “The House passed legislation and the Senate’s picking up saying if we’re not able to figure out who these people are, we shouldn’t let them in the country,” Rep. Hurd says. “It’s balancing compassion with security.” If border towns are the first line of defense, checkpoints are the last. They’re about an hour or so north, in rural areas that are always on high alert.
“We encounter people from different nationalities,” Hector Moreno with the U.S. Border Patrol says. Agents at the checkpoint in Falfurrias are known for busting the most undocumented workers and drug runners. But for every person they catch, dozens more trek through the thick South Texas brush to avoid detection. So Border Patrol has added a new tool to its arsenal: rescue beacons, strategically placed on vast ranches that are hotbeds of smuggling activity. The beacons are tall, red towers. At the base is a button people can push if they need emergency or medical help and want to turn themselves in to Border Patrol. “It comes in Spanish and in Mandarin.
At one time there was an influx of that nationality in these parts of the area,” Moreno says. The beacons are more evidence of the worldwide web of immigration. But ranchers in the Rio Grande Valley says when it comes to this latest threat from Syrians, the government isn’t coming clean. “The Border Patrol do not tell us as ranchers what specific countries these special interest countries – these people come from,” rancher Dr. Mike Vickers says. “And we have a problem with that. Why is Washington keeping it a big secret?”
Using their pack of dogs as protection, Dr. Vickers and his wife Linda encounter immigrants undeterred by electric fences and barbed wire. They’ve personally caught hundreds of people trying to skirt the checkpoint. “Whether they’re an illegal alien from Mexico or from Syria it is my duty to find them on my property and report them to Border Patrol. No exceptions,” Linda Vickers says. One time, something was left behind that Dr. Vickers says proves people from the Middle East have been crossing the border illegally for years now. “As he came over the fence, this fell out of his pocket,” Dr. Vickers says while holding up a dusty book. “And we were right there watching the whole show.” It’s an Urdu dictionary found two years ago. “This is where Urdu is spoken,” Dr. Vickers says while pointing at a map inside the book. “Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Iran.” Flip through the dictionary and you’ll find key phrases are circled. “You must pay in dollars,” Dr. Vickers reads. “All of these phrases were circled so this is obviously a dictionary the coyote was using to communicate with the people.”
The old discovery is giving way to new concerns as Syrian refugees make their way west. “Mexico’s taking them but they’re not going to stay in Mexico,” Linda Vickers says. “They’re going to head up here. I think that’s a given.”
Read more: News 4 San Antonio