This Invasive Species is a Threat to National Security

What does Carrizo Cane along the border have to do with border patrol efforts? How can a species of wasp help?

By Reynaldo Leanos, Jr.February 16, 2016 11:18 am,

Border Patrol Agent Jose Perales is driving down dirt roads heading towards the Rio Grande River on the American side of the border. Perales says that’s where the threat is.

Walking towards the riverbank there’s nothing but tall plants. They look like bamboo, ­but thicker. Perales says that’s Carrizo Cane –­­ one of the threats to border security that made it into Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s “Securing Texans” plan. But how can a plant be a threat?

“It’s hard because you never know who’s around the corner,” Perales says. “It’s hard and a group can be right here. We’ll never see them, but as the vehicle drives by they can hear us.”

The people he’s talking about is mostly groups of undocumented migrants trying to cross the border. But sometimes it’s also drug smugglers.

“As you can see, Carrizo Cane makes it very challenging for us to make our way to the river,” Perales says. “It’s challenging for us because we can’t get through it fast enough. Once you apprehend a group to get them out of here because as you can see you have to go weaving in and out of Carrizo. To have a group of six, eight, or 10 by yourself it makes it very challenging. Almost impossible.”

Border Patrol Deputy Raul Ortiz is stationed in Edinburg. He says visibility is a challenge not only on the U.S. side of the border ­­but also in the river itself. Ortiz says there’s also a thick wall of plants that prevent him and his agents from seeing anything.

“We have islands that are just covered with Carrizo Cane,” Ortiz says. “And the organizations will stage contraband.”

So what does the state plan to use against this threat?

“We’ve worked with USDA, U.S. Department of Agriculture to come up with a wasp that could perhaps not eradicate, but certainly minimize the spread of Carrizo Cane in certain areas,” Ortiz says.

Ricardo Chapa is with the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board. He says the wasp is part of the plan.

“You still have to shred the plant at a height of 3 feet,” Chapa says. “The wasp will then take onto the shredded cane and then it’ll supposedly it will lay eggs and the larvae will eventually eat into the cane.”

But for the now the wasp idea is still just that – an idea. It’s one of several options being considered to eradicate Carrizo Cane on the Rio Grande. For now, no comprehensive plan has been established. So, the threat continues.

Back at the river, a message comes over agent Jose Perales’ radio: “Roma units you’re going to have three bodies crossing. It looks like they’re inkling towards the abandoned house.”

We take off to the scene.

Of the three people agents were pursuing that day, they only caught up with one of them. The other two swam across the river and disappeared behind a thick curtain of Carrizo cane.