The words are etched on a cement boat ramp that leads from the Rio Grande, and it’s the spot where hundreds of illegal immigrants per week take their first steps onto American soil.
The crossing point is on private property where an abandoned house sits on a quiet rural street that runs parallel to the Rio Grande, about 5 miles out of town from Del Rio, Texas, 150 miles southwest of San Antonio.
It’s the easiest illegal border crossing along the Rio Grande,’ Val Verde County Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez told DailyMail.com in an exclusive interview.
‘In the past few months we’ve had a dramatic increase in illegal border crossings at this point,’ said Martinez, 64, who has been Sheriff of this border county for the past 13 years. ‘Two months ago we had maybe 20 illegals crossing here a week and now we have anywhere from 60-75 illegals a day.’
Del Rio has a population of 36,000 people. Its counterpart across the Rio Grande, Ciudad Acuna has a population of 216,000
Martinez says depending on the time of day, the water at this point of the Rio Grande is only a few feet deep in places – making it easy to wade through the water from Mexico to the United States in a matter of minutes.
Ten miles north of this point is the dam on Amistad (Friendship) Reservoir which borders the US/Mexico. In the early mornings, the river is at a low point, only a few feet deep in some places, but by mid-afternoon, the flood gates of the dam open up, and the water rises by as much as 10 to 15 feet.
The key time for the illegal crossing is from 10 am-3 pm when the water is at its lowest point, said the Sheriff. ‘In the past, we used to get Haitian and Central American’s but now most of the people who cross at this point are Cubans and Venezuelans.’
Standing 6′ 3 tall, Sheriff Martinez is an imposing figure, wearing Wrangler jeans, cowboy boots with a circa 1932 Colt. 45 pistol strapped to his side. He says the Biden administration is to blame for the increase of illegal crossings.
Martinez, a Democrat, says there was poor planning on the part of the current administration.
‘They just wiped out the old policy under the Trump administration and when they took over, the Biden administration didn’t have a plan to put their new policy in place.
‘These people who are coming across are telling us the Biden administration was going to be laxer than the previous one, and that’s why they are crossing. That’s why they are coming and it’s only going to get worse.’
Sheriff Martinez said this smuggling route is no longer a local secret. ‘The word is getting out that this particular area is a good, safe place to cross for immigrants who want to surrender and claim political asylum.’
There are a few types of people who cross the border at this place, said the Sheriff, ‘the ones that want to get into the US so they can work and live illegally, and then the other ones are seeking political asylum.
‘The ones that want political asylum to wait around for law enforcement after they step onto American soil and wait for the Border Patrol. They usually cross during the day and come as a family with luggage, cell phones, often wearing nice clothing. They bring a change of clothing with them to change into after they get out of the water. They don’t run or try to escape.’
Martinez says almost all of the Cuban and Venezuelans that are detained at this illegal crossing point are going to eventually ask for political asylum.
Last weekend, a DailyMail.com reporter and photographer documented several immigrant families crossing the Rio Grande at ‘border lawn.’ There were a few Cubans, but Venezuelans were the predominant country of people who crossed at this point.
Entire families crossed the river with moms and dads carrying their young children on their shoulders while holding bags or small suitcases with their belongings.
On Friday a Venezuelan family of three was crossing the border with the help of a local ‘guide’. A father not used to the strong current in the knee water slipped and fell and dropped his two-year-old daughter into the river. The ‘guide’ went back and picked up the young girl and carried her the rest of the way taking her to the edge of the river onto U. S. soil.
‘The guides from Mexico know who our deputies are and actually tell them the number of people they are bringing over to the U. S.,’ continued the Martinez.
The guides never set foot on U. S. soil, they accompany the immigrants right up to the water’s edge and as soon as their cargo in on the bank they go back to the Mexican side.
On Saturday, one group of 11 Venezuelans with three minor children made the crossing. The ‘guide’ – acting more like a baggage porter – brought their bags to the cement boat ramp, Val Verde County Sheriff Deputies then helped the children and adults up onto American soil.
A little girl wearing peach-colored leggings, wet from the river, was the first of the group to arrive in America, her mother is behind her. The mother, sobbing, picked up her young girl cradling her in her arms, while the baby girl told her mother in Spanish, ‘don’t cry mommy, and don’t cry.’
Another individual overcome with exhaustion and emotion – a young man, Jose Lovera, 26, – a former engineering student in Caracas, Venezuela broke down in tears and dropped to his knees.