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 ...

Legalizing marijuana might have negligible impact on border security

After chasing away smugglers who were 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. The packages were later found to weigh 313 pounds, making them worth an estimated $240,000 on the street.
After chasing away smugglers who were 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. The packages were later found to weigh 313 pounds, making them worth an estimated $240,000 on the street.

Supporters of legal marijuana say it would help ease problems with drug smuggling, but experts say drug cartels would probably just switch to other products. As states embrace marijuana, pot seizures have fallen, but heroin and methamphetamine busts have gone up. This story is part of Tribune's yearlong Bordering on Insecurity project.

A DPS trooper spots a motorist along Highway 83 in Starr County.
A DPS trooper spots a motorist along Highway 83 in Starr County.

Many border drug smugglers avoid prison in Texas

In two key counties, less than a quarter of the “high-threat criminals” arrested by Department of Public Safety troopers for felony drug offenses during the state’s border surge have been sent to prison.

45-year-old Nickolas Mares is described by DPS as a “high-threat criminal,” though he only faced a drug possession charge. He can hardly speak from a stroke and lives with his mother in Rio Grande City.
45-year-old Nickolas Mares is described by DPS as a “high-threat criminal,” though he only faced a drug possession charge. He can hardly speak from a stroke and lives with his mother in Rio Grande City.

Most border arrests by Texas troopers are not for drug smuggling

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DPS has added more troopers to the border under the assumed objective that they're going after drug and human smugglers. But most of their arrests are for drunk driving and misdemeanor drug possession. 

A student presents her answers to gang related questions in an El Salvador elementary school workbook. "What have you heard recently about gangs and violence?" the question asks. "That there are a lot of murders" reads the student's response.
A student presents her answers to gang related questions in an El Salvador elementary school workbook. "What have you heard recently about gangs and violence?" the question asks. "That there are a lot of murders" reads the student's response.

U.S.-funded programs try to convince Central Americans to stay home

The United States is helping fund anti-gang initiatives and jobs programs in Central America, trying to decrease the flow of migrants heading north for the Texas-Mexico border. 

Rafts made of inflatable tires and wooden slats ferry people and goods across the Suchiate River separating Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, and Tecun Uman, Guatemala, with the international bridge connecting the two countries in the background.
Rafts made of inflatable tires and wooden slats ferry people and goods across the Suchiate River separating Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, and Tecun Uman, Guatemala, with the international bridge connecting the two countries in the background.

Mexico fights illegal immigration on its own southern border

Under pressure from the United States, Mexico has tried to cut down the flow of Central American immigrants passing through on their way to the southern U.S. border.

A Policia Nacional Civil patrol in the 22 de Abril neighborhood of Soyapango, just outside of San Salvador, El Salvador. The neighborhood is known to be controlled by the Mara Salvatrucha gang.
A Policia Nacional Civil patrol in the 22 de Abril neighborhood of Soyapango, just outside of San Salvador, El Salvador. The neighborhood is known to be controlled by the Mara Salvatrucha gang.

Hiding in Austin, a former El Salvador policeman seeks asylum

After years of trying to help control El Salvador's violent gangs, the danger became too great for the former detective and his family.

The body of an alleged gang member following a shootout in Ayagualo, El Salvador, in May 2016 that police say began when one of their patrols was ambushed.
The body of an alleged gang member following a shootout in Ayagualo, El Salvador, in May 2016 that police say began when one of their patrols was ambushed.

Gang Wars, Poverty Driving Central Americans Over U.S. Border

The challenge of securing the southern U.S. border is changing dramatically as fewer Mexicans cross illegally, but more Central Americans arrive seeking refuge from the terror and chaos of their home countries.

Esvin Lopez, 19, a raft conductor who works ferrying people and goods across the Suchiates River separating Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, and Tecun Uman, Guatemala, uses a long wooden pole to propel the raft from one side of the river to the other.
Esvin Lopez, 19, a raft conductor who works ferrying people and goods across the Suchiates River separating Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, and Tecun Uman, Guatemala, uses a long wooden pole to propel the raft from one side of the river to the other.

Coming Soon: Investigating Central American Migration and the U.S.-Mexico Border

The next installment of Bordering on Insecurity will roll out Oct. 10 to Oct. 27. Watch a preview here.

Travis County Constable Sally Hernandez is running for Travis County sheriff as a Democrat vowing to "get ICE out of Austin," meaning the local jail will no longer cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, making Austin the first true "sanctuary city" in the state.
Travis County Constable Sally Hernandez is running for Travis County sheriff as a Democrat vowing to "get ICE out of Austin," meaning the local jail will no longer cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, making Austin the first true "sanctuary city" in the state.

Austin Poised to Become First "Sanctuary City" In Texas

With the likely election of a new Democratic sheriff in November, Austin is poised to become the first true “sanctuary city” in GOP-ruled Texas if Travis County stops cooperating with federal immigration policies.

The Luna brothers, including Border Patrol agent Joel (center), were indicted on capital murder and organized crime charges in the 2015 beheading death of a Honduran immigrant. Eldest brother Fernando (right) struck a deal with prosecutors on Aug. 25, 2016, and the most serious charges against him were dropped. Now the focus has shifted to the alleged Gulf Cartel ties of youngest brother Eduardo (left).
The Luna brothers, including Border Patrol agent Joel (center), were indicted on capital murder and organized crime charges in the 2015 beheading death of a Honduran immigrant. Eldest brother Fernando (right) struck a deal with prosecutors on Aug. 25, 2016, and the most serious charges against him were dropped. Now the focus has shifted to the alleged Gulf Cartel ties of youngest brother Eduardo (left).

In Beheading Case, Focus Shifts to Cartel Ties of Border Patrol Agent's Brother

New disclosures in the capital murder case involving a U.S. Border Patrol agent point to the central role allegedly played by the agent's younger brother, described in court papers as a Gulf Cartel “commander.” 

Suspects (l-r) Aaron Rodriguez Medellin, Eduardo Luna Rodriguez and Joel Luna Rodriguez stand before District 107 Judge Benjamin Euresti on Thursday for their arraignment on murder charges.
Suspects (l-r) Aaron Rodriguez Medellin, Eduardo Luna Rodriguez and Joel Luna Rodriguez stand before District 107 Judge Benjamin Euresti on Thursday for their arraignment on murder charges.

Indicted Border Patrol Agent's Brother Strikes Deal

The brother of a U.S. Border Patrol agent charged with capital murder in a gruesome beheading that authorities say was a Mexican cartel hit struck a surprise deal Thursday to cooperate with prosecutors in their case against his siblings and other defendants.

A U.S. Army soldier of the Texas Army National Guard and U.S. Border Patrol Agent Chad Wamsley observe as Ricky I, a Belgian Malinois detection dog, checks a tractor-trailer for indications of drugs or concealed people at the U.S. Border Patrol's Interstate 35 checkpoint north of Laredo, Texas, on July 14, 2006.
A U.S. Army soldier of the Texas Army National Guard and U.S. Border Patrol Agent Chad Wamsley observe as Ricky I, a Belgian Malinois detection dog, checks a tractor-trailer for indications of drugs or concealed people at the U.S. Border Patrol's Interstate 35 checkpoint north of Laredo, Texas, on July 14, 2006.

What Are Your Rights at U.S.-Mexico Border Patrol Checkpoints?

Under federal law, checkpoints are legal. But officers do have limits in what they can ask you. What questions do you have about the U.S.-Mexico border? Share it with our reporters.