Volunteer deputies take big risks to stop human smugglers

Brooks County, Texas - In a new CBS poll out Wednesday night, Americans are telling us what they think should be done with the surge of illegal immigrant children crossing the southern border.

Forty-three percent told us the children should be allowed to stay while awaiting a hearing on their immigration status. Fifty percent said the immigrants should be sent home without a hearing.

In Texas, volunteers are helping to patrol the border. CBS News spent a few hours with reserve Deputy Gustavo Cobos as he tried to stop smugglers sneaking immigrants into Brooks County.

He was suspicious of a black SUV traveling north on Route 281. The chase that followed is routine here -- and so are the risks taken by the smugglers and immigrants.

The SUV slowed and a woman fell out.

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Brooks County, Texas, reserve Deputy Gustavo Cobos comes to the aid of an injured Mexican woman who was apparently tossed from a smuggler's car.
CBS News

"We've got a bailout, got a bailout! Send EMS, we've got someone run over!" Cobos shouted.

He ran over to the woman, asking, "Are you OK? Bien, bien?" Her face was streaked with blood and she cried out in pain.

Out here, illegal immigration goes beyond politics. It's a matter of life and death.

Brooks County can only afford one deputy per shift to cover 900 square miles. So Cobos, who's an officer 80 miles away, volunteers his free time to help fill the gaps.

"No matter what kind of badge we wear, what kind of county, what kind of city, we're all brothers, out there to help each other out," he said.

Cobos isn't getting paid for his volunteer work. He won't even be covered by health insurance if he gets hurt.

"I am taking a big risk, but at the same time the bigger risk is what happens to Brooks when all the funds are depleted, when there's no more manpower. That's the big risk," he said.

Sixteen other police officers from outside Brooks County have also volunteered and been deputized here. They try to intercept smugglers before they drop off their human cargo. The bodies of more than 400 immigrants who succumbed to the heat have been recovered in the Texas brush.

"This is the prime example right here," said Chief Deputy Benny Martinez, looking at a body bag. "This is what we're trying to avoid."

Martinez carries the bodies away in a pickup. This was the 45th body he has recovered this year. He hopes volunteers can keep that number from growing.

The woman Cobos helped carried only a Mexican passport. She survived.

"They come over here and this is as close as they'll come to American dream," Cobos said. "They just pass out under a tree and take their last breath. That doesn't sound like an American dream."

The woman who appeared to have been pushed from the SUV is still in the hospital.

The other people in that SUV - including the suspected smuggler - all got away.

  • Manuel Bojorquez

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