Illegal immigrants crossing the river that divides Texas and Mexico would once have tried to disappear into the thick vegetation on the US side to avoid arrest.
But in a striking twist to the migrant crisis that is overwhelming the US border authorities, tens of thousands of Central Americans streaming across the border are surrendering to US border officers as soon as they can.
Human smuggling gangs are spreading the word that unaccompanied minors and mothers with children escaping the gang violence and poverty of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala will no longer be deported.
Mason Goff was working on a bird research survey in the thorny bush of a Texas nature reserve along the Rio Grande when he found himself conducting a very different count. As he drove over the brow of a hill, he saw a long line of women and children filing along a dirt track near the small town of Mission while a US border patrol vehicle came round a bend in the other direction.
“I started to count and there must have been 150 of them, all children, teens and young women, no men, and the remarkable thing was that they were just lining up and waiting to be picked up,” said Mr Goff, a college student. “I’ve had people come up to me in my pickup truck and just say ‘border patrol, border patrol’,” said Mr Goff. “One time, four teenage males jumped into the back and wouldn’t get out until I drove them to find the nearest patrol.
“They just got out and put their hands behind their backs to be cuffed. Border patrol has been turned into a militarised taxi service for these people”…