Along the U.S./Mexico border
By Eric Thayer
I’m running through the desert outside a tiny town called Encino with a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter flying above me. As I move through trees and bushes, the sand is soft and every step is an effort. It feels like I am running on the spot as I hold my cameras close so they don’t swing into my sides. Border Patrol agents are all around me and the only noises are the helicopter above, my own labored breathing and the sound of footsteps in the sand.
In south Texas, the Rio Grande River separates the U.S. from Mexico. It is a brown river that varies between 50 to 100 yards across. On the surface, the water looks calm as it meanders through the brush, but it hides swirling currents – just one of the many hazards faced by those who cross. The line between the two countries is imaginary here, but if you could see it as it appears on a map, it would be right in the middle of the river.
At this moment, the border is about 60 miles south. I’m with the U.S. Border Patrol after a report from a local rancher of a group of people crossing over his land. If they make it across the river, through the brush and past the Border Patrol there are vehicles that will take them north. From this part of Texas, there is basically just one checkpoint left, called Falfurrias. If they are able to bypass that, they can move up into other parts of the state and to the rest of the country.
Ahead of me, a Border Patrol agent chases four men and I dash to keep up. They are running from a country, from a war and towards a better life. They are running for freedom. But sometimes it’s not that simple. That’s the thing about it down here – nothing is simple about this.
The border has always fascinated me. It’s a line on a map, but when you’re down by it sometimes you can’t even tell it’s there. Other times it’s glaringly obvious, marked out by fences, walls, checkpoints and security cameras.