The bloody drug war in Mexico shows no sign of relenting. Neither do calls for tighter border security amid rising fears of spillover violence.
This hardly seems a time the U.S. would be willing to allow people to cross the border legally from Mexico without a customs officer in sight. But in this rugged, remote West Texas terrain where wading across the shallow Rio Grande undetected is all too easy, federal authorities are touting a proposal to open an unmanned port of entry as a security upgrade.
By the spring, kiosks could open up in Big Bend National Park allowing people from the tiny Mexican town of Boquillas del Carmen to scan their identity documents and talk to a customs officer in another location, at least 100 miles (160 kilometers) away.
The crossing, which would be the nation's first such port of entry with Mexico, has sparked opposition from some who see it as counterintuitive in these days of heightened border security. Supporters say the crossing would give the isolated Mexican town long-awaited access to U.S. commerce, improve conservation efforts and be an unlikely target for criminal operations.
''People that want to be engaged in illegal activities along the border, ones that are engaged in those activities now, they're still going to do it,'' said William Wellman, Big Bend National Park's superintendent. ''But you'd have to be a real idiot to pick the only place with security in 300 miles (480 kilometers) of the border to try to sneak across.''