SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - East Texas game wardens are heading to the border to help patrol as thousands of illegal immigrants try to enter the United States. Game wardens from all across Texas have been called to the border to help in all aspects from drug trafficking to illegal fisherman, not just immigration issues. One local game warden explained what he saw as he worked along the Rio Grande.
A small boat wading through the waters of the Rio Grande filled with game wardens from Texas Parks and Wildlife on the lookout for any dangers that may float by.
"We're down there as part law enforcement, part humanitarian. It's people crossing in a river that's flowing and some of which don't have life jackets and that's no different than what we're doing on these lakes here is watching for safety," Dustin Dockery, a Smith County Game Warden, explained.
Dockery has made two trips to the border. One was spent working on the Rio Grande.
"While on the border, the game wardens that are working down there, they have seen an increase in interactions with human traffickers," he said.
One such case was a 16-year-old boy, picked up as his family swam behind him. Game wardens said they had seen him before and suspect he is a coyote smuggling migrants.
"Trying to cross the river in rubberized rafts, anything that they can get across in," Dockery said.
Keeping everyone safe is his number one priority, despite the ever unsafe conditions.
"Whether they're here in the US or they're from over there, they're human beings and we don't want to have to work a drowning and we don't want to have to recover a body," he said.
Along the Rio Grande, the sounds of waves, breeze and gunfire linger.
"They routinely encounter close proximity gunfire coming from the Mexico side. At this point, it's not been directed at the game wardens," he explained.
It is rare to actually catch a smuggler due to thick vegetation.
"Anybody could hide there. You could hide an airplane right there and not even know it's there. It's just that thick," Captain James Dunks, one Texas game warden said.
Migrants will fight through whatever the river may bring.
"To the death, that's why it's so dangerous," Dunks explained.
That Smith County game warden said he made one trip to the border in 2013 and one this year. Game wardens often help at the border or anywhere across the state they are needed as Texas Peace Officers.
In 2014, roughly 42,000 families have already crossed the border, which is more than eleven times the number for this time last year.