60 Minutes on the border

Reporting on migrants from the Texas border, the 60 Minutes team witnessed the detention, smuggling attempts—and even death—that occur daily

This week on 60 Minutes, correspondent Scott Pelley visits the border dividing south Texas from Mexico. He and his producer, Ashley Velie, had heard about smugglers in Texas packing migrants like human cargo into 18-wheelers—including one last July, in which 10 people died after being smuggled in a Walmart truck—and they wanted to see the situation for themselves.

"We were really trying to get a sense of what the whole migration picture looked like up close and personal," Velie tells 60 Minutes Overtime in the video above. "We wanted to see if we would come across anything while there, thinking, 'Well, it's probably not going to happen. What are the chances?'"

ot-migrantsb.jpg

Migrants who crossed the border into McAllen, Texas were immediately detained by Border Patrol, who made them remove their shoelaces to prevent them from committing suicide in detention.

With about half a million immigrants arrested each year for crossing the border illegally, the chances, it turns out, are very good.

"They know going into this journey that they could easily meet with their death."

In the days the 60 Minutes team was on the ground, they witnessed dozens of migrants pouring across the border into McAllen, Texas, only to be detained minutes later. Trying to understand why they'd crossed the border, the team met some of the immigrants when they surrendered to Border Patrol. A 16-year-old girl told them that she was threatened with rape by a gang in El Salvador. One young boy said he traveled 1,000 miles from Guatemala alone, hoping to reach his parents in Florida. Both ended up in detention, where they can apply for asylum or eventually be deported.

ot-migrantsa.jpg

At the Laredo checkpoint, two stowaways were captured hiding in the top of a truck's cab

For those migrants who make it over the border without detection, they then must evade a sort of "second border" of federal checkpoints. This is where smuggling comes in. At a checkpoint in Laredo, the 60 Minutes team watched two illegal immigrants crawl out of the top of a truck's cab, caught as they were trying to make their way north.

But migrants who evade capture are often unprepared to face an uncertain trip north, and they suffer from heatstroke, dehydration, or hypothermia. 

The 60 Minutes team came across the bodies of two men who died along the side of the road as they tried to make the trek into America. Border Patrol assessed that the men were with a larger group and were walking toward the highway, trying to find a ride. The men likely died from exposure to the elements during a cold snap.

"This is what these folks coming from Central America, coming from Mexico—they know going into this journey that they could easily meet with their death," Velie says. "The absolute drive, because of either threats of death or whatever they're facing in their home countries, is enough to get them to this point that they're willing to take that risk."

The video above was produced by Ann Silvio and Lisa Orlando. It was edited by Lisa Orlando.