The most perilous part of the journey for many migrants seeking to enter the United States from central America comes not when they are on their way to the Texas border, but once they have passed it.

Falfurrias, with a population about 5,000, is 75 miles north of the border along Interstate 69-C, the main gateway to central Texas. Situated amid ranch land and an hour’s drive from the nearest big city, it might be a relatively uneventful place – were it not for its detention centre and the immigration checkpoint about 15 miles south.

Smugglers drive the immigrants near the checkpoint then let them out, to find their way around it on foot through a thorny terrain of private ranches in temperatures that often exceed 100F in summer. Some get lost and fall ill and here their journeys end, dying somewhere in the mostly-shadeless expanse of nearly 1,000 square miles that makes up Brooks County.

Despite a dramatic rise in the number of unaccompanied children trying to cross the Rio Grande river into Texas, the overall number of US border patrol apprehensions – one indicator of the flow of illegal immigration – is vastly down compared with the figures from a decade ago.

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