BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Out here along the dusty banks of the Rio Grande, you can imagine how easy it is for immigrants to swim across the narrow river from Mexico, hide from the Border Patrol in the tall bushes and, if it's their lucky day, escape their past and begin a new life in the United States.
It's a scene that's played out 24 hours a day, seven days a week between the immigrants and the Border Patrol along the 800-mile long river border.
The Department of Homeland Security believes the river alone is not much of a barrier from immigrants or terrorists. The department is proposing to build a fence along portions of the river, including in and around the city of Brownsville.
People here are upset with the plan. The city will likely go to court to prevent the federal government from building the fence on city property. Mayor Pat Ahumada told me that building a wall around his city would be a huge mistake. "This is our home and this river is part of us," he said.
The mayor said security can be achieved through technology: more sensors, night scopes and cameras watching the border. He said the Border Patrol's current program to put more boots on the ground along the border is working; it has slowed illegal immigration in the Brownsville sector.
It certainly had an effect of us. NBC cameraman Bob Abrahamsen and I were stopped three times by Border Patrol agents as we drove along the dirt road that hugs the Rio Grande. They wanted to make sure our suspicious-looking white van, capable of carrying (smuggling) 15 people, was really carrying just TV gear and a couple of guys preparing a story for Nightly News.