Tribpedia: Bordering on Insecurity

Over the next year, The Texas Tribune is taking a deep look at the issues of border security and immigration, topics never far from the headlines — or the presidential trail. The Tribune will report on the reality and rhetoric around issues like the removal of undocumented criminal offenders, the stemming of government corruption and the conditions many immigrants are ...

A Border Patrol Agent makes his way through harsh terrain along the Rio Grande River in Starr County, Texas.
A Border Patrol Agent makes his way through harsh terrain along the Rio Grande River in Starr County, Texas.

Feds Tight-Lipped on Weeding Out Corrupt Border Agents

Whether most — or even a significant fraction of — corrupt federal border agents are caught and punished is an open question. Customs and Border Protection boasts of more stringent screening and monitoring of its agents but releases little data to back up its claims.

When the agents charged with policing the nation's southern border have family ties on both sides, the lines between right and wrong can blur.
When the agents charged with policing the nation's southern border have family ties on both sides, the lines between right and wrong can blur.

Border Corruption Often Has Family Roots

David Cruz joined the U.S. Border Patrol because he wanted to be "part of the best." But family pressures, disillusionment, love and greed drove him to begin taking bribes to help immigrants enter the country illegally.

At least 140 officials charged with keeping drugs and people from illegally crossing the nation's borders have been arrested or convicted for corruption in the past 12 years.
At least 140 officials charged with keeping drugs and people from illegally crossing the nation's borders have been arrested or convicted for corruption in the past 12 years.

Cracks in the Wall: When Border Watchdogs Turn Criminal

Rudy Soliz did it for sex. Sergio Lopez Hernandez blamed depression and financial trouble. The crimes differ, but prosecutors say the actions they’re accused of weakened the U.S. borders and ports of entry they were tasked with protecting. 

Former U.S. Border Patrol agent Raquel Esquivel was pregnant with her third child when she went to prison. She speaks to her children twice a week by phone.
Former U.S. Border Patrol agent Raquel Esquivel was pregnant with her third child when she went to prison. She speaks to her children twice a week by phone.

Agent, Smuggler Joined Together for Love and Money

Former U.S. Border Patrol Agent Raquel Esquivel still wears a government-issue green uniform, but now it's a federal prison jumpsuit. She was convicted in 2009 of helping smugglers sneak loads of marijuana across the border.

Border Patrol agent Joel Luna Rodriguez confers with his attorney Carlos A. Gardcia after his arraignment in Brownsville by District 107 Judge Benjamin Euresti on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016
Border Patrol agent Joel Luna Rodriguez confers with his attorney Carlos A. Gardcia after his arraignment in Brownsville by District 107 Judge Benjamin Euresti on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016

Headless Body Leads to Arrest of Border Patrol Agent

When Franky Palacios Paz was found naked and decapitated floating off South Padre Island, the local sheriff thought the murder would lead investigators back to Mexican drug cartel violence. He didn't expect a U.S. Border Patrol agent to be among those arrested.

Ruperto Escobar on his South Texas ranch along the Rio Grande, the international boundary between the United States and Mexico, in April 2016. For generations, smugglers have used his family's ranch to move people and product across the border, and Escobar doesn't see that changing anytime soon.
Ruperto Escobar on his South Texas ranch along the Rio Grande, the international boundary between the United States and Mexico, in April 2016. For generations, smugglers have used his family's ranch to move people and product across the border, and Escobar doesn't see that changing anytime soon.

A Border Rancher Explains the Art of Survival

For more than two centuries, the Escobar family has ranched along the Rio Grande. For almost as long, smugglers have moved people and product across their property. 

After chasing away the smugglers using rafts to bring drugs across the river, Border Patrol and Texas DPS agents inspect several large packages of marijuana abandoned near the Rio Grande shoreline near Roma, Texas, on March 8, 2016. The packages were later found to weigh 313 pounds, making them worth an estimated $240,000.
After chasing away the smugglers using rafts to bring drugs across the river, Border Patrol and Texas DPS agents inspect several large packages of marijuana abandoned near the Rio Grande shoreline near Roma, Texas, on March 8, 2016. The packages were later found to weigh 313 pounds, making them worth an estimated $240,000.

Border Patrol Agent Indicted in Sweeping Drug Probe

A U.S. Border Patrol agent has been indicted in a sweeping corruption probe into a drug ring that allegedly recruited law enforcement officials to steal dope from traffickers.

From Roma, Texas, Border Patrol Agent Isaac Villegas looks out over the Rio Grande and into Ciudad Miguel Alemán, Mexico, on March 8, 2016.
From Roma, Texas, Border Patrol Agent Isaac Villegas looks out over the Rio Grande and into Ciudad Miguel Alemán, Mexico, on March 8, 2016.

Roma, Texas: A Smuggler's Paradise

Multiple inflatable rafts on the water. Emotionally shaken kids in the back of Border Patrol vans. Dope dumped on the river’s edge. The Texas Tribune witnessed all that and more during an afternoon with the U.S. Border Patrol.

Border Patrol Agent Isaac Villegas makes his way through Carrizo cane, an invasive plant species that lines the banks of the Rio Grande in Roma, TX. while searching for a group of undocumented immigrants reported to have crossed the river on Mar. 8, 2016.
Border Patrol Agent Isaac Villegas makes his way through Carrizo cane, an invasive plant species that lines the banks of the Rio Grande in Roma, TX. while searching for a group of undocumented immigrants reported to have crossed the river on Mar. 8, 2016.

New Carrizo Eradication Effort Reignites Old Debate

A state plan to eradicate invasive Carrizo cane along the Rio Grande — cited by Gov. Greg Abbott as a border security priority — is finally getting some funding after sitting dormant for almost a year.

Milton Otoniel Lopez Chupin, from Santa Tecla Libertad, El Salvador, in the courtyard at the Casa del Migrante migrant shelter in Matamoros, Mexico, on Nov. 3, 2015.
Milton Otoniel Lopez Chupin, from Santa Tecla Libertad, El Salvador, in the courtyard at the Casa del Migrante migrant shelter in Matamoros, Mexico, on Nov. 3, 2015.

Voices from the Border: Illegal Crossings and Deportations

Every month, busloads of deported undocumented immigrants arrive at the southern border, returning to Mexico after serving prison time in the United States. Meanwhile, other migrants prepare to attempt illegal border crossings. This story is part of our "Bordering on Insecurity" series.

Marcus Francisco Valencia Rodriguez, 19 years old, in the courtyard at the Casa del Migrante migrant shleter in Matamoros, Mexico, on Nov. 2, 2015.
Marcus Francisco Valencia Rodriguez, 19 years old, in the courtyard at the Casa del Migrante migrant shleter in Matamoros, Mexico, on Nov. 2, 2015.

Immigration Saga Leaves Teen Trapped in Mexico

Marcos Valencia was raised in Indiana, but in the eyes of the law, his home is the cartel-infested state of Tamaulipas, Mexico, where he was born. Now he's stuck in Mexico, unable to return to the country where he grew up.

Obed Josafhat Rodriguez is pictured waving a gun on surveillance video taken from the Monroe Game Room in Houston on Aug. 30, 2013. He and an accomplice were convicted in shooting death of Yolanda Lara, a game room employee.
Obed Josafhat Rodriguez is pictured waving a gun on surveillance video taken from the Monroe Game Room in Houston on Aug. 30, 2013. He and an accomplice were convicted in shooting death of Yolanda Lara, a game room employee.

Undocumented Killer Had Extensive Teen Record

Before two murders landed him in Texas prison, Obed Josafhat Rodriguez racked up a criminal history stretching back to his first arrest for stealing a car at age 12, but his immigration status failed to trigger any action while he was a juvenile. 

There are many busy retailers near the international bridge where pedestrians may cross in and out of the United States, in historic downtown Laredo, Tx.
There are many busy retailers near the international bridge where pedestrians may cross in and out of the United States, in historic downtown Laredo, Tx.

Border Communities Have Lower Crime Rates

Texas counties along the Rio Grande are relatively safe, state and federal crime statistics show, and they seem to be getting even safer as more law enforcement resources pour into the area.