There's a mix of people in encampments in Jacumba Hot Springs, California, a border town located at the U.S.-Mexico wall, and has migrants from all over the world - China, India, Turkey, and Mexico - and most don't speak English.
The camp has well over 700 people living here, all broken up into small communities based on where people are from. The lucky ones have tents; however, most sleep on the gravel and use their clothes to shield them from the elements and their backpacks as pillows.
People are making tents out of mesquite wood and trash and if they need to go to the bathroom, there are just two port-o-potties for the hundreds staying here. These rural routes are the latest trend being used by smugglers, exploiting a lack of border resources, according to a senior U.S Customs Border Patrol official.
Similar images can be seen near Lukeville, Arizona, where U.S. Customs and Border Protection temporarily suspended operations on Monday to free up agents to deal with what they call "increased levels of migrant encounters" at the border "fueled by smugglers peddling disinformation to prey on vulnerable individuals."
In the midst of all the chaos, we were approached by a teen boy from Africa who spoke broken English. He wouldn't give us his name because he was afraid of how it could influence his asylum status, but he was desperate for our help. He told us he'd been brought to the area by the cartels early Monday morning and walked onto U.S. soil through a break in the border wall. He showed us a white bracelet Border Patrol agents had given him that day, promising they'd come back to pick them up for processing in an orderly fashion.
But Tuesday evening, as we got ready to leave the camp, that teenager was still there waiting. And now, Border Patrol had shown up with new yellow bracelets. The mob of people swarmed the five agents handing them, pushing to try and make a line while almost trampling each other.
None of the agents are supposed to talk with us, but we tried to get close enough to ask anyway.
"What are those bracelets for," I yelled at the officers.
"They are for processing. To get on the busses," one agent yelled back at me.
"When am I leaving?" the young African boy jumped in to ask.
"We are going to try today," the agent answered. "Women with babies first."
"But there are always more women and babies coming. It's impossible," the young teen replied.
That teenager told us before leaving, "I thought I was coming here to [have] a better life. Or at least be treated like a human... but now I'm sleeping on the sand. That's not humane."
This is taking place amid GOP lawmakers insisting that substantial border security and funding be tied to the Biden administration's proposed $105 billion foreign aid package to Ukraine and Israel. A vote on this emergency spending bill was voted down on Wednesday in the Senate as Republicans seek strengthened security and resources.
We also spoke with a young mother from Colombia who, off camera, told us how a lot of these groups are getting here. First, they fly into Tijuana, Mexico, go to a specified hotel, and wait for the cartels. Once they are picked up, their phones go off so no one can track them. The cartel operatives take them to the border and drop them off near the break in the wall, according to the official.
No one will go on camera to tell us this because they are afraid for their lives.
People in the camps say they are not getting any help from the U.S. federal government. Some NGOs from San Diego have tried to respond and are teaming up with local volunteers like Sam Schultz to give out food and basic necessities to families. On Tuesday, they prepared over 800 meals which included a bowl of beans, and P&J sandwiches. Everything was gone in less than 30 minutes.
CBP and the Biden administration have been pushing migrants to use their CBP One app, which is a mobile app that serves as a portal to a variety of CPB services, but that app is only translated into English, Spanish, and Creole. The app has been riddled with technical problems and puts a cap on how many appointments are offered each day. Volunteers say this is just not an option for people coming to this part of the border.
"The cost of this is going to spread out through society, no question. There's just no way that you can deal with an influx of people like this without being a cost to society," Schultz told us.
"None of these people want to stay here. Not one. I ask everyone I can communicate with, that's one of my standard questions is where do you wanna go? New Jersey and New York are the top of the list every time. Chicago, Minneapolis come down underneath. Surprisingly Salt Lake City is popular. You never know," he added.
Overnight, temperatures in Jacumba dipped down into the low 40's. As the sun began to set and we packed our gear to leave, we saw families scrambling to pick up wood from a nearby brush area to start fires to keep warm.
Cartel organizations in Mexico are exploiting rural areas where law enforcement resources are limited, according to the official. This has created a bottleneck effect that's been difficult for the Department of Homeland Security to quickly respond to.
"We are obviously in a challenging moment of encounters on the border and have been for some time," the senior CBP official told ABC News.
The official added that everything is not perfect but "we see the Border Patrol every day out there working to prioritize getting people who are vulnerable or have some sort of, you know, a possible risk for spending any sort of time out in the field in the custody as quickly as possible."