The nature reserve near the Anzalduas Bridge sees frequent illegal border crossings, border patrol officials say. But it is the clothing and trash left behind from those immigrants that concerns U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials, which they say poses a risk to wild animals and their environment.
“If the trash isn’t cleaned up then, it impacts the wildlife here,” said Javier Ríos, Deputy Border Patrol Agent for the McAllen station.
Early Saturday morning, members from the Border Patrol’s Explorer Program search the thick brush for trash and clothing left behind by immigrants and human smugglers who crossed the Rio Grande illegally.
“A lot of times you’ll find diapers, with human waste. That’s a hazardous material that’s also a danger to wildlife,” said Scot Edler, Assistant Manager for the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
Border patrol says they find everything from bras to deodorant littering the area.
“Family units and unaccompanied children are crossed here by the smugglers from Mexico,” Ríos said. “Dropped off here and then told to walk, walk until you see a Border Patrol agent.”
Customs and Border Protection officials say immigrants tend to cross the border illegally near Anzalduas Bridge more than anywhere else on the southern border, due to the river being much more shallow thanks to a nearby dam.
“McAllen station is the busiest in the nation,” Ríos said. “The Rio Grande sector accounts for 40 percent of all illegal alien apprehensions in the United States.”
Border patrol agents say that not only do apprehensions happen on a nearly daily basis, but the danger agents are put in, the nature reserve is constant.
“Agent assaults do occur, we had two this week,” Ríos said.
Apart from enforcing the border, Ríos says they try to keep the nature reserve clean, but admits it’s hard to keep up.
That’s why on Saturday, they received help from law-enforcement hopefuls.
“At some point, these young men and women may seek a career in law-enforcement,” Ríos said. “Whether it be Border Patrol or some other law-enforcement.”