Small Texas border town considered ‘hot zone’ for migrant traffic

Migrants say they’re looking to work and start a safe and new life

ROMA, Texas – A small town in Texas that borders Mexico is an area that is considered a “hot zone” for migrant traffic, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Hundreds of migrants have made their way into Texas by crossing the Rio Grande River from Ciudad Miguel Alemán in Tamaulipas, Mexico.

In February, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials stated in a news release that agents had apprehended more than 16,000 family units.

Smugglers are now running a tight operation, crossing over families and unaccompanied children through the night. Republican Senator John Cornyn recently visited the Rio Grande Valley and said current immigration policies are empowering smugglers and putting migrants at risk for trafficking.

“The smugglers, the drug-runners -- they understand our laws and they know how to exploit them to their benefit, so ending catch-and-release and making sure those with legitimate claims get to present them to an immigration judge I think should be a priority,” Cornyn said.

On Friday, our crews witnessed smugglers crossing over five rafts of anywhere between 12 to 15 migrants packed onto each raft. All were wearing life vests and quickly made their way into US territory.

Most migrants were visibly exhausted and scared. In an array of emotions, some were even in tears of joy to be in America.

One man from Honduras said he is looking forward to the opportunity of working and providing a safer future for his 5-year-old daughter.

A woman and her son were also fleeing the perils of their country. Her home was completely destroyed by mudslides provoked by heavy rainfall during two Category 4 hurricanes that devastated Honduras last year.

The groups of migrants made their way up a dirt path about a mile north of the river ,where they were met by border patrol agents for processing and were transported to different holding facilities.

Republican senators who visited the Donna Detention Center said there are 4,200 migrants held at the facility, where there is a capacity of 250 under COVID-19 protocol.

“We saw cages after cages after cages of little girls and little boys lying side by side, touching each other, covered with reflective emergency blankets. There was no 6-foot space. There was no 3-foot. There wasn’t a 3-inch space,” Republican Senator Ted Cruz said.

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About the Authors:

Jonathan Cotto is a reporter for KSAT's Good Morning San Antonio. Jonathan speaks English and Spanish and is a veteran of the United States Navy. Previously, he worked in South Texas.

Sal Salazar is a photojournalist at KSAT 12. Before coming to KSAT in 1998, he worked at the Fox affiliate in San Antonio. Sal started off his career back in 1995 for the ABC Affiliate in Lubbock and has covered many high-profile news events since. In his free time, he enjoys spending time at home, gaming and loves traveling with his wife.