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Smugglers Operate in Plain Sight Across the River from Roma

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Posted: Jul 16, 2014 6:32 PM

Updated: Jul 16, 2014 7:09 PM

ROMA - Smugglers are operating in plain view and during the day along the Mexican side of the Rio Grande across the border from Roma.

A CHANNEL 5 NEWS crew watched as the smugglers blew up rafts, took payments and sent men floating across the river.

The smugglers threatened the news crews.

Dozen of vehicles circled the river bank on the Mexican side all day. Many of the vehicles had Texas license plates.

Less than a mile away, it was business as usual at Riverview Plaza.

"We feel just as safe as we used to feel. Roma is a very safe, tranquil community," business owner Fernando Pena said.

Pena said he hasn't noticed an uptick in crime.

Customers at the shopping center were divided about safety in the region.

"I let the law enforcement take care of it, because it's not safe," one shopper said.

The man didn't want to show his face for fear of retaliation. He said smugglers have become increasingly bold.

The man said he is grateful for increased Texas Department of Public Safety patrols.

Roma Police Lt. Rafael Aguirre also is grateful for the extra help from DPS.

"The influx of immigrants in our town, and others in the Valley, is nothing new. It's been around for years," Aguirre said.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS cameras witnessed only men trying to cross the border.

Many of the scouts were young boys and teens. The CHANNEL 5 NEWS crew tried to speak with some of them, but they would only say they are affiliated to the Gulf cartel.

Topics: roma, starr county, smuggling, rio grande, south texas, illegal, immigration, smuggler, threat, fernando pena, poilce

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