Fox News sent a team last month to document the journey of migrants from when they illegally cross the border to their destinations within the interior of the United States. This is an account of what they witnessed.
The small town of La Joya lies 20 minutes from the bus station in downtown McAllen, Texas. Home to just over 4,000 residents, La Joya and similar border towns along the Rio Grande Valley have been overwhelmed by illegal border crossings in recent months. Encounters with illegal migrants are up more than 500% in 2021, according to the U.S. Border Patrol.
Fox News witnessed the journey for migrants who cross the border into La Joya, typically beginning in the cab of a Border Patrol pickup truck. Most crossed the border and waited along the dirt road to be picked up by Border Patrol agents.
On their way to be processed, the illegal border crossers get their first glimpse of American life as they pass by single-family homes and tree-lined streets that back up to the frontier.
Once in the custody of the U.S. government, they are taken to a field processing center where they are given water and cover from the sun.
The processing center in La Joya is located on the corner of a public park. When Fox News arrived at the site, Border Patrol officers surrounded a group of approximately 20 migrants huddled under a plastic awning-like structure.
As migrants drank water and spoke with Border Patrol, two teenagers played football just a few yards away. One Border Patrol officer told Fox News the same scene had played out daily for months.
After approximately an hour, a tour bus arrived. Border Patrol officers directed the migrants to form two lines: one for single men and another for families.
One by one, each walked from the sun shelter, past a dumpster and onto the bus. Another Border Patrol officer, who did not have permission to speak on camera, told Fox News the migrants would be sent to a government facility a few miles away for formal processing.
As the bus pulled away to take the migrants on the next leg of their journey, the Fox News team followed. But the team was pulled over by local police, who said U.S. government officials asked them to stop the reporters from tracking the bus’s movement to the processing facility.
After the migrants worked their way through government processing, those not immediately deported appeared to be free to move about the interior of the U.S. until their court date. For many of the migrants who cross in La Joya, this means a trip to a Catholic respite center in downtown McAllen, across the street from the bus terminal.
As the Fox News team arrived in downtown McAllen, families streamed in and out of the respite center. Many carried a large manila envelope with a sheet of paper stapled to the front that read, “Please help me. I do not speak English. What bus do I need to take? Thank you for your help!”
One man who admitted to illegally entering the U.S. from Honduras showed Fox News his alien booking record. It confirmed he was apprehended with his wife and young daughter two days earlier. He also confirmed that the Catholic center helped arrange travel for him and his family.
The Catholic respite center in McAllen did not respond to multiple requests for comment by Fox News.
From the respite center, lines of migrants holding the manila envelopes walk single file across the street to the bus terminal. Once inside, they purchase a ticket to any number of destinations. Fox News joined a large group of migrants on a bus destined for Dallas.
It was an upgrade from the government buses many of the migrants were on just days earlier. This time, there was no thick plexiglass partition between them and the driver, they could disembark any time they chose and they weren’t accompanied by armed law enforcement.
About an hour into the ride, up highway 281, the bus stopped at an immigration checkpoint. Several Border Patrol officers boarded the bus and asked everyone for their papers. Everyone complied. About 10 minutes later, the bus pulled away from the checkpoint and continued north.
Aboard the bus, nearly every traveler was part of a small family unit. Whether tired from the long journey from their home countries or worried about the future, almost the entire trip was marked with an eerie silence.
The families, who all shared a similar story, rarely spoke to one another. Nearly all of the families included young children. Throughout the duration of the nine-hour trip, not a single child cried or visibly complained.
The bus made two rest stops along the way: one for a bathroom break and another for lunch at a restaurant along the highway in San Marcos, about an hour north of San Antonio.
The lunch, the cost of which appeared to have been included in the $70 bus fare, was a Mexican-style buffet. Families sat throughout the restaurant eating and talking while Spanish-language television blared in the background. After about 30 minutes, everyone again boarded the bus.
The last leg of the journey was a three-and-a-half-hour drive into a bus station on the outskirts of downtown Dallas. As the bus arrived, families poured off, one by one. Many were met by relatives and friends. Others arrived with no one to greet them.
As they gathered their belongings and reunited with family, it became apparent that there were no uniformed representatives from any federal, state or local agency to track where the migrants would go next. With the promise to appear at a future court hearing on their immigration status, the illegal migrants were free to roam the interior of the U.S. as they pleased.
The migrant who earlier confirmed that the Catholic center helped arrange his travel told Fox News that he planned to stay in Dallas, where he had a court date in 60 days.
Fox News asked what he wanted to do in the U.S.
“I want a better future,” he said. “I want to work so my kids can have a better future.”