By Maya Rhodan
November 15, 2018

It is still dark out when Border Patrol agent Herman Rivera’s radio crackles to life. His fellow agents, posted nearby on levee roads above the Rio Grande, report movement along the border with Mexico in the dim predawn. As the first rays of sunlight creep across the horizon, the team bursts into action, charging down into the scrub, dodging bushes and ducking under low-hanging branches in pursuit of migrants. Helicopter blades whomp overhead.

“I’ve got one over here,” an agent yells from a field where stalks of sugarcane tower over his head. “I’ve got two over here,” screams another. They emerge a beat later with a line of men in handcuffs. Elsewhere, agents discover four more migrants, three from China and one from Guatemala, hiding in thick underbrush.

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This appears in the November 26, 2018 issue of TIME.

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