ROMA, Texas — As the Trump administration intensifies efforts to curb illegal immigration, attempts to cross the U.S.-Mexico border are continuing. A CBS News crew witnessed one of those attempts on Wednesday as a man in a raft tried to smuggle two people into the U.S. Their crossing, near Roma, Texas, was less than 100 yards from a port of entry where dozens of armed agents are stationed.
CBS News' David Begnaud said he and his crew had gone to the border to work on a story about people receiving letters regarding the border wall that President Trump wants to build in the area. After stopping at a lookout point at the border, Begnaud and his producer drove over an international bridge that goes from Texas to Mexico, crossing over the Rio Grande river. They then parked on the Mexico side, along the water.
While there, Begnaud saw a man on a raft and began filming using his phone. Two other people in the boat appeared to be wearing life jackets.
As Begnaud recorded, a man speaking in Spanish — called a scout — told him and his producer that it wasn't safe, and told them to leave. The scout, who was using a walkie-talkie to communicate with the smuggler in the boat, followed Begnaud and his producer to their rental vehicle, leaned on the window, and told them it wasn't safe for them there.
Within about ten minutes, Begnaud and Hooper were back on the U.S. side of the river and the border. They then saw the man who was paddling in the raft walk across the river back to Mexico.
The incident highlights an ongoing issue that U.S. Border Patrol has been talking about: people swim or walk from Mexico to the U.S. across the Rio Grande river. What was surprising, however, was that it happened in broad daylight about 100 yards from the international bridge where dozens of Customs and Border Protection officers were stationed.
Those officers, however, are focused on vehicles. CBS News did see two uniformed officers standing on top the bridge, checking people as they walked onto the bridge and into the U.S.
Around the time the incident with the raft occurred, there was a shift change for Border Patrol. A source within the agency said smugglers know exactly what time to do this type of activity on the river, Begnaud reports.
The incident is one example of why the Trump administration has been pushing for a border wall, and a reason why they want to put the border wall through the Roma, Texas area, in Starr County. Residents CBS News talked to say they need more Border Patrol officers, more cameras, more blimps, and more modern technology to try to protect the people who are crossing.
The two people seen in the raft ran into the woods after they crossed the river into the U.S., and as far as CBS News could tell, Border Patrol never found them even though two agents were called in to look for them.
In a statement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said: "Roma, Texas, is located in one of the most volatile areas of the southwest border."
"Smuggling events occur daily, at all hours, as criminal organizations seek to exploit any shortages or gaps in border infrastructure, technology and personnel."