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As our driver pulled around a corner onto a dirt road near the Rio Grande on Tuesday, there they were.

A large group of asylum-seekers had just waded across the river from Mexico into Texas and surrendered to Texas Highway Patrol troopers and U.S. Border Patrol officers.

A national cable news network correspondent had just interviewed a 74-year-old woman who was by far the oldest in the group of nearly 60 people who had fled Venezuela. She said her son had been killed by a paramilitary group that enforces support of the Venezuela government.

She was at the front of the line to board four Border Patrol vans. At the back of the line, our “fixer” translated as I interviewed Claudia, a university student who said she fled because she was forced under threat of violence and even death to join pro-government protests, and Kemy, a man who was shot in the leg as he fled his home when another paramilitary group came demanding unpaid protection bribes for his shop.

A female trooper bent down to give stickers bearing law enforcement badges to little children. The TV news crew gave ice and a drink to the 74-year-old woman, who showed obvious signs of heat exhaustion on a day that was unusually warm and humid even for Del Rio, Texas.

About an hour later, we watched Texas Highway Patrol troopers providing Gatorade to a group of four Black Haitian migrants on another road in the area.

Deseret News photographer Jeffrey Allred’s camera captured the truth and emotion of every scene. Later, he flew a drone to record a striking image of the Rio Grande at sunset.

The Rio Grande at sunset.
The sun sets the Rio Grande in Del Rio, Texas, on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

People from dozens of countries are crossing the river in groups small and large. In all, they number in the tens of thousands. Some journeys are short and relatively comfortable — Claudia and Kemy took a flight from the Venezuelan capital of Caracas to Canun, Mexico, then bused to the border — and some are monthslong, harrowing and peppered with brutal violence.

Some are fatal.

None of the journeys end there, on the American shore of the Rio Grande, which in Mexico is known as the Rio Bravo, or Wild River. Some people will be deported quickly. Some will be allowed to remain in the United States while they go through a legal process to determine whether they will be granted asylum.

That process can take two to four years.

In between, the travelers stay with sponsors, family or friends all over the United States who often have helped fund the journeys. No one is allowed to remain in the country and seek asylum without first having a sponsor, so these migrants cross the Rio Grande with a plan and arranged transportation.

They face one more hurdle. A gap in the system. Once they are released by the Border Patrol, they often have no food, nowhere to stay, no way to shower, no extra clothes and little to no money while they wait for a bus or train or plane.

That’s the story Jeff and I went to Texas to tell this week, about the people and the groups that are stepping into that void to help take people off the streets, feed and clothe them and give them a cot for sleep.

The churches and charities don’t provide any money to the asylum-seekers. Instead, they try to provide room in a makeshift inn.

We told part of the story earlier this week. We will publish another later this week.

My recent stories

Migrants seeking asylum at U.S. border get help from Latter-day Saint Charities, others (June 7)

This $5 million Latter-day Saint donation means more to refugee resettlement in 2021 (June 3)

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Behind the scenes

Deseret News journalist Tad Walch and photojournalist Jeffrey Allred take a selfie near the Rio Grande along the border of Texas and Mexico while on assignment. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
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