Watch: Inside the battle to secure the southern border

On Balance with Leland Vittert

MISSION, Texas (NewsNation Now) — On Balance host Leland Vittert spent the overnight hours with law enforcement authorities on the Texas border and witnessed multiple illegal crossings via boat, car and on foot.

“Human smuggling right now is their (the cartels’) biggest commodity,” said Lt. Chris Olivarez with the Texas Dept. of Public Safety. “They are making millions and millions of dollars a month off of human smuggling because it’s less risk for them as far as moving their products.”

During a traffic stop, Olivarez said, he encountered four people who say they each paid $25,000 for a VIP smuggling trip into the United States.

He says the cartel is one step ahead of agents.

“They know the loopholes,” Olivarez said. “They know how to exploit them. They have surveillance, they have counter surveillance technology, tactics. Just exactly what we do with the way we train, they’re trained is the exact same way.”

He said Border Patrol has given up on capturing some of the migrants walking into the country because of the policies that are currently in place. Instead, signs have been erected to direct migrants on where to be processed.

“The policies in place for now makes it easier for these illegal immigrants to come across with no resistance and that’s why they’re doing it,” Olivarez said. “As a message gets sent to their home countries, more people are going to continue to come that’s what we’re seeing day in and day out.”

Olivarez says people wading across the border are different from those coming in on on rafts.

“If they’re trying to come across and not be caught, they’re either moving some type of product or a high value individual or guns, drugs,” another trooper said.

Vittert witnessed a raft full of people approach the border. He also heard nearby gunfire.

The Mexican side of the border is a “very high, violent area,” the trooper said. There is “a lot of cartel infighting; report after report every night of machine gunfire. There’s a lot of cartel overlap here and that’s the reason why they’re fighting.”

Vittert also saw several wristbands, with different colors and designs, that the cartel gives people who buy different smuggling services.

“Ever since this crisis started back in January, more patrols were pulled from the field, keeping them from doing their normal duties …. they’re stuck in processing centers,” Olivarez said. “Now the state of Texas is having to fill those gaps with the resources that we have, state resources.”

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