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The Smuggling Experience Of An Undocumented Immigrant Into Houston

Last month, 10 immigrants died in a sweltering tractor-trailer in San Antonio. They were being smuggled into the country. The tragedy is a reminder, once again of the risk and how so many are willing to take it.

 

To better understand what it’s like to be smuggled into Texas, we were put in touch with Raul.

He is an undocumented immigrant now living in Houston, in a nice house, in a quiet southeast Houston neighborhood.

He wants us to use only his first name.

He’s been smuggled in multiple times but made his last trip from Mexico to Texas a decade ago.

He says he’ll never forget the fear he had traveling across the border.

“You feel the fear. I think that you feel the fear from the moment you set foot in this country,” Raul says. “There’s nothing for sure. The minute you set foot in this country, you have this fear in front of you that you may be caught.”

His journey began by first finding a smuggler, the guys called “coyotes,” which he said was easy.

The smuggler picked up Raul and five friends a hotel in Mexico and dropped them off a few miles from the Rio Grande.

Raul says the river was too deep and too dangerous to swim across, so they had to be tugged two-by-two in tires while strapped to a coyote swimming against the current.

Once across, they were met by a vehicle near Brownsville.

The area is under heavy surveillance by border patrol but on this day Raul says they were lucky:

“They would close the check point because the fog came down, and vehicles would go through without being checked,” Raul says.

They made it to a safe house in McAllen, where he along with dozens of other immigrants would wait to be taken further into Texas.

He says he  and about 20 others were crammed into rooms that measured 12 by 12.

There was no air conditioning, no access to showers and the temperatures were as hot as they are now in Texas, around 95 degrees.

After being in the safe house for three days, Raul and five others got in the bed of a Toyota pick-up truck to be driven to Houston.

He says the truck was prepared, filled with gas, and ready to make no stops, so that meant no water, food or restroom breaks.

During the six hour drive from McAllen to Houston, he says he laid flat in the bed of the truck covered with a blue tarp.

Then the truck bed was sealed with a shell cover.

Did he trust the driver?

“You don’t know if they really will take you to Houston or another state,” Raul says.

Raul says he could only catch glimpses of the outside.

He would see immigration agents parked along the highway pulling cars over.

When cars packed with illegal immigrants would be stopped people would jump out trying to escape into the countryside.

But his truck was not stopped.

In Houston, the coyote dropped Raul at the home of a friend.

Raul says he paid the coyote $1500 for his trip to America.

Fast forward a decade.

Raul has been working as an independent contractor.

He lives with his wife and 13-year-old son in a middle class neighborhood.

It’s why he came, why he took the risk.

But he tells me he wouldn’t make that same trip today, he says it’s too dangerous now.

Not because of increased border security, but because of drug cartels and crime on the frontier of Mexico.

He says the cost to be smuggled to the U.S. today is almost five times what he paid.

But he says he understands why people continue to pay the coyotes and take the risk. It’s what he did.

“I am 100 percent Mexican,” Raul says. “But time makes you love this country too. You love it too. It changes your life.”

 

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