HIDALGO, Texas (Border Report) — A pile of splintered and faulty homemade ladders that migrants used to climb the rusty border wall lay in a heap on Wednesday near an access gate in this South Texas community on the border with Mexico.
These homemade, one-time-use-only ladders are crude in structure and obviously built quickly. And they pose a danger to migrants, Border Patrol agents say.
Rusted nails jut from the thin wood. The sides are often cracked. The wood is rotten. And the steps are uneven and narrow, and barely wide enough for an adult foot at some parts.
But every day, Border Patrol agents report finding several of these ladders scattered for miles along the border wall that separates the United States and Mexico.
“They’ll just leave them up against the wall once they have crossed,” Border Patrol Agent Jesse Moreno said. “They’re just makeshift with a couple of nails … a scrap of wood.”
During a recent early-morning ride-along with the Border Patrol, Border Report watched as Moreno encountered a fellow agent who had a bunch of the ladders piled in the back of his truck.
When agents find the ladders, they pile them up just north of the wall. Once a week, a truck is sent down the dirt trail road that lines the border wall to gather and haul them all away, Moreno said.
But Moreno said it’s not quick enough and no matter how many they take away, more keep coming.
He shined a flashlight on a load of splintered wood. In the agent’s truck, there also were rope ladders of various colors. Coyotes, or human traffickers, carry rope ladders to the top of the wall, attach a hook and throw it down so the migrants can shimmy down from the top of the wall.
But not everyone makes it, he said.
“Almost daily, we receive two to three calls of individuals getting hurt. Some more serious than others — fractured bones protruding from skin that will need medical attention. Other times, it’s just a sprain that our EMT, and medical personnel can attend to on-site,” Moreno said.
On Wednesday, at least eight ladders were piled up about a half-mile from the McAllen-Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge. This is a popular spot where adult migrants cross, run and scatter to avoid apprehension.
Border Report has seen several groups of adult migrants apprehended in this area, and almost all have been sent back to Mexico because Title 42 border restrictions, begun in March 2020 during the Trump administration, remain between the United States, Canada, and Mexico in order to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Adults who cross into the United States in between legal ports of entry are not allowed to claim asylum as long as these restrictions are in effect.
Ropes and ladders confiscated by Border Patrol agents are seen in a Border Patrol truck on June 17, 2021, near a section of border wall in Hidalgo, Texas. (Border Report Photo/Sandra Sanchez)
With the border wall anywhere from 18-feet tall to 30-feet tall at different places, the coyotes carry long two-by-fours and bags of scrap wood. Border agents say the traffickers typically place the long pieces of wood at the base of the border wall and quickly assemble the ladders.
Border Report spotted ladders on both sides of the border wall, and during daylight, indicating migrants had just used them to cross because they hadn’t yet been picked up by Border Patrol agents.
Wall critics say the ladders prove how the border wall is a waste of taxpayer funds.
At $26 million to $41 million to construct each mile of border wall, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from South Texas who is vice chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, likes to say “it’s a 14th Century solution to a 21st Century problem.”
Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that the state of Texas would build its own border wall due to the influx of immigration, which Abbott says is a “border crisis.”
But that hasn’t gone over well in South Texas, where miles of border wall already exist and dozens of landowners are involved in eminent domain lawsuits to fight the federal government from taking their land.
“The wall doesn’t stop any of the people coming in, that he says he wants to stop. We know that,” Cuellar told Border Report.
This fiscal year, there have been 314,067 apprehensions in the Rio Grande Valley Sector, Cuellar said. That’s the most in the nation.
There have been nearly 650,000 migrants encountered along the entire Southwest border this fiscal year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports.
Abbott and Trump are coming to the South Texas border on June 30 and holding a town hall meeting hosted by Fox News in Edinburg, Border Report learned Wednesday. An email invitation, which was sent to South Texas property owners, said the event “will focus on the state of Texas’ border security efforts.”
“It’s not going to go very far,” Cuellar said of Abbott’s plans.