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MCALLEN, Texas – It was a routine evening for the U.S. Border Patrol in this town just across the border from northern Mexico. It was also a night filled with drama.
In the course of just a few hours on the southern border Thursday night, dozens of migrants were detained, clothes and personal items were left at a migrant landing spot on the Rio Grande and a drone likely belonging to a cartel could be seen apparently surveilling Border Patrol movements.
Embedded with a group that included Reps. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., Kat Cammack, R-Fla., and Stephanie Bice, R-Okla., Fox News Digital was on hand as National Border Patrol Council members shared what they experience on a nightly basis on the southern border.
Almost immediately after the tour began at 10:30 p.m., Border Patrol radio frequencies relayed that officers had pulled someone out of the Rio Grande. A few minutes later, radios went off again, alerting that different individuals had been detained near a Burger King just a few hundred yards from the border.
Then, just before 11 p.m., several Border Patrol vehicles and officers stopped near a section of border wall to detain a large group of about 40 migrants. Migrants were handed masks and lined up before likely being taken to a nearby processing center.
Yet Cammack said that the group was not even close to the largest she’d seen in previous visits to the border.
At another stop on the tour, south of the border wall on the banks of the Rio Grande, National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) members spotted red and green flashing lights hovering on the Mexican side of the border.
Those lights were from a drone likely belonging to a cartel, the NBPC officials said. They added that the drones are a common sight, used by the cartels to monitor the movements of Border Patrol and other law enforcement agencies and to guide people crossing each night.
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At another stop, Texas National Guard members found a group of 11 migrants walking through the brush, including a teenage girl who spoke fluent English and detailed her story to the members of Congress.
“She’s originally from Honduras, actually lived in the U.S. for about five years with her aunt in Tennessee and traveled back to the border because her goal is to reunite with her aunt in Tennessee,” Bice said of her conversation with the girl.
“Her parents, from what we could tell … had crossed the border at some point,” Bice added. “They were back in Honduras, but it sounds like they may have been deported … She said she made the trek with a cousin who she got separated from, it sounds like just today. And she seemed very comfortable with the process. She knew what papers to bring and did not seem uncomfortable or scared about being taken in.”
Cammack added, “It’s clear that — and this is part of what the cartels do – they handle the logistics from start to finish from the coaching of ‘here’s what you can expect. Here are the papers that you need to bring. Here’s how you should approach Border Patrol.'”
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Cammack also said the girl confidently explained she will be in Tennessee with her aunt in two or three days, an indication that she’d already been told about the processing protocols.
“I can’t tell you how many Border Patrol agents have said to me over the last year and a half … the cartels know the policies and protocols better than we do,” Cammack said. “And they use it to their advantage …. What we just witnessed was really the smuggling of unaccompanied children on behalf of the cartels conducted by the United States government.”
Cammack, Bice, Donalds and Fox News Digital later saw that group of migrants at a secondary processing center.
National Border Patrol Council representatives showed the members of Congress and Fox News Digital a common landing area for migrants crossing the Rio Grande near McAllen.
That area was littered with personal items left behind by migrants, including deodorant, toothpaste tubes, shirts and a bra.
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National Border Patrol Council representatives said the constant processing of the waves of migrants coming to the border is harming officers’ abilities to catch actual criminals.
“At the beginning of a shift, we’re actually at 50%. Fifty percent are inside” a processing facility handling migrants, and “50% are scheduled to go out in the field,” National Border Patrol Council spokesman Chris Cabrera said.
“That 50% ratio starts the day but, by two or three hours in the shift, we’re down to about 40%, 30%, 25% in the field because guys get called in to take somebody to the hospital, to help out processing,” he continued. “So our numbers just continue to dwindle.”
According to Customs and Border Protection, officers encountered a record of nearly 240,000 individuals crossing the southern border.