Professional Thieves Crossing the Rio Grande in Big Bend
A popular Park Service trailhead parking lot perpetually covered in a sea of glass….
Hopping the fence or wading the Rio Grande River isn’t part of America’s immigration process. — Ted Nugent
15 years ago, I decided to make a visit to Texas and Big Bend National Park. Having lived in Texas twice, residing in two different cities, I was re-entering old stomping grounds.
Strangely, Big Bend is one of the least visited parks of America’s best idea, the National Park system. It’s one of the most rugged places on the North American continent. Notice in the picture above how easily a human being could simply walk across the boundary river, the well packed trail indicates that many do. There are no walls on over 1,350 miles of America’s southern border.
The economic impact of illegal immigration on taxpayers is catastrophic. — Ric Keller
The park area covers a vast piece of land and has 118 miles of boundary with Mexico. The park encompasses 801,163 acres, 1252 square miles of landscape including the Chiso’s Mountains with 7 peaks over 5,000 feet high. Emory Peak, the highest, is 7,825 feet tall.
The park is 15th on the list of largest parks, it’s over 10 times the size of Arches National Park.
My visit was strictly to relax and create photographic images of the area. During my stay, a man had disappeared leaving an abandoned car in the park. One man, an off duty ranger followed me into a remote area. When I confronted him, he stated that I looked suspicious and was likely in danger to be traveling alone in the park. Below find the image I was busy creating at the time.
The issues surrounding illegal immigration are wide-ranging and complex, but there is no question about the need to secure our borders. — Roger Wicker
I wanted to visit Boquillas Canyon, a spectacular area of the park where the Rio Grande River has cut a deep gorge. This amazing geological wonder is the longest and deepest canyon in Big Bend National Park. The vertical relief from nearby Pico del Carmen, to river level is over 7,000 feet, somewhat deeper than the Grand Canyon of the Colorado.
It’s great that Trump has engendered a heated debate over illegal immigration and our open borders. — Tom Tancredo
For canyon access traveling by car I had to park in the small lot 1.1 miles from the premium canyon access point. As I entered the lot I noticed three things immediately. Two warning signs declaring a high crime area asking that hikers leave no valuables in the car.
This seemed odd to me in an American National Park, then I noticed the sea of broken glass completely covering the asphalt. Car prowls were occurring regularly and daily.
My senses were elevated as I am not comfortable leaving expensive gear in the car. I had much more than I could carry up the trail and a two mile round trip walk with shooting time would mean a significant time away from the car.
Still, I was very excited to get into the canyon, I had come all the way from Seattle and this was to be a highlight of the trip.
As I got out, preparing to go, voices faintly carried to my ears. Looking across the river into Mexico I could see little cut ins on the riverbank. Items were sitting on the sandstone that hard been carved into makeshift shelves. The air smelled of cooking fires and there were sounds, bird calls that seemed more like a human being. Interestingly, they were all making sure to stay out of view.
“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt
I looked around at all the crushed car window glass and with much trepidation, began to climb the hill that began the hike. Once reaching the top, I would then descend down into the trail and not be able to see the car.
I heard more fake bird calls and then stopped to look some-more. Across the Rio Grande I noticed a mule, his lead wrapped around some foliage. I topped the hill and began to descend down the other side and then heard several loud splashes. Someone was crossing the river.
If you look back up at the Google Earth Image you can see how the trail comes back very close to the river. It supports a good view of the Mexico side of the riverbank. Not far from there is the community Ocampo, Coahuila, Mexico, I could see the water tower and some buildings.
In other parts of the park I had seen walking vendors selling frivolous figurines and streamers. They had very dark skin and were obviously from across the river.
I had also seen messages around the park about buying from those vendors, it was forbidden. Park Rangers can also fine Americans who wander across, or have a boat or kayak mistakenly shore on the Mexico side.
A closer look now at the Google Image satellite reveals many trails that lead from town right down to the crossing spot at Boquillas Canyon trail parking lot.
They have made a business out of it, emptying the cars that are left in the lot for an hour or more.
Suddenly, I heard more splashing. My minds eye could imagine it, the glass being broken in my rental car, everything being stolen. I had no insurance on my gear in those days, I decided to turn around and go back.
As I scurried back up the hill to a place where I could view the car I heard the same birdlike calls from before, but now louder and more frantic. Then more splashing, also louder than before.
They were working together with lookouts so entry and exit to the parking lot could be choreographed.
Looking back across the river more little dirt camps could be viewed. It was obvious that the Mexico side of the river was heavily occupied, the trails all well worn. Cans of food and clothing items were piled in the dugouts.
The lookout person had seen me turn around then signaled to the approaching illegal border crossing thief to retreat.
I made it back to the car with no incident. I sat there and became a little angry. Where were the Park Rangers? Where was the border patrol? My mind raced thinking how these perpetrators were stealing my enjoyment of a National Park treasure. And worse, the income I might produce from the no doubt amazing photos that could have been made in the canyon.
I have fought on the front lines to prevent illegal immigration. I know Donald Trump will stand with me and countless Americans to secure our border. — Joe Arpaio
1,954 miles of border exists in the southern United States. The are 580 miles of barrier or fence put in place. This means that 1,374 miles of US border with Mexico has no fence.
Hundreds of young girls come up missing in southern Texas annually, many of them had crossed into Mexico and never returned. There was an article in the USA Today I had seen in the hotel upon arrival, a record had been broken that year for missing children.
Juarez, just across the border from El Paso has one of the highest murder rates in the world. An average of 750 homicides occur annually. All this destruction is just a few hundred miles north of Big Bend.
I began actively looking for Rangers and Border Patrol agents. I wanted to ask why there was nobody around, when they obviously knew what was going on.
I am, you know, adamantly against illegal immigration. — Hillary Clinton
On the way Home
No law enforcement were seen as I, now a bit disappointed left the park. I drove north on 385 to Marathon and stopped to get gas. Three border patrol vehicles and six agents were inside having coffee. I went in and asked why they were so far north? Why were there no border patrol agents inside the park? Marathon is 42 miles form the Big Bend entrance, 75 or so miles from the canyon parking lot.
They all looked at each other and one of the agents said, “we are kind of short staffed right now”
I was so rattled, for the first time ever, returning to the car, I drove off forgetting to put the gas nozzle back in the pump. I was horrified to see the rubber hose rip right out of place, gas gushing all over.
Sheepishly, I went inside, reporting my mistake. To my surprise the attendant said no big deal, happens all the time. What a relief.
That my friends, is how it happened. I drove back to El Paso for my flight home to Seattle.
Consequently, the very next day I struck up a conversation with a man while getting a drink and something to eat. He had just been charged with DUI and was an illegal immigrant. It was so perfect, I wanted to learn his story. He did not even have a driver’s license.
I asked if he was in danger of being deported. He said he did not fear deportation but knew the authorities in Washington State would likely not deport him. His experience included nine, count em, 9 deportations.
He went on to tell me how each time he comes back through Arizona or Texas and tries to get as far north as possible. If he were caught in Arizona, getting a DUI, quick deportation. But seemingly too expensive to be held then transported from Washington State.
I had just enjoyed a beer and some conversation with a professional illegal immigrant and became enlightened.
I hope you found some value in this article, if you follow the links below for more of my recent work, maybe another will resonate. Until next time, Cheers, Christopher
© Christopher Boswell 2019. All Rights Reserved.
When Christopher isn’t writing from wherever, he can be found traveling or capturing photographs somewhere in the United States. He may be generating Graphic Design, building a website, processing images or video, flying his Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, wrangling dogs, or backpacking and kayaking. He lives in Tacoma, WA. We invite you to learn more about Christopher at Real Window Creative