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Border Patrol warns of dangers migrants face when trying to enter US illegally

U.S. Border Patrol El Paso Sector Chief Gloria I. Chavez talks about the dangers migrants face. (BRIANA SANCHEZ/EL PASO TIMES/TNS)

The increasing number of migrants attempting to cross the border in dangerous conditions has left many dead or in need of urgent medical care from U.S. Border Patrol agents.

Border Patrol El Paso Sector Chief Gloria I. Chavez highlighted the dangers facing migrants during the hot summer months at a news conference Wednesday so community members can discourage friends or family they know thinking of crossing.

Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Richard Barragan. (BRIANA SANCHEZ/EL PASO TIMES/TNS)

“Transnational criminal organizations continue to recklessly disregard the lives of the migrants they smuggle into the country,” Chavez said.

The news conference was at about 1 p.m., near the base of Mount Cristo Rey, when the temperature was near 100 degrees, to showcase the heat and rough terrain migrants must battle when attempting to cross into the U.S.

“The most pressing danger of crossing the border illegally in this desert region is the extreme summer heat,” Chavez said. “In West Texas and southern New Mexico, we have already experienced at least 10 days of triple-digit heat.”

The Border Patrol El Paso Sector, which covers far West Texas and New Mexico, has seen 129,000 encounters with migrants crossing the border since June 23 — a 267% increase compared with last year, Chavez said.

Out of the 129,000, 107,000 have been returned back to Mexico, she added.

“Unfortunately, as encounters rise, so do the numbers of rescues and associated deaths of migrants who choose to make the dangerous trek into the United States,” Chavez said. “As a result of the hardworking and dedicated agents of the El Paso Sector, we have rescued over 201 migrants this fiscal year alone, compared to the 40 rescues in all of the year of 2020.”

She said there have been about 17 migrant deaths this fiscal year.

Human smugglers are encouraging migrants to come across the border then leaving them, Chavez said.

“We have different types of border barrier in the 264 miles of border between El Paso, New Mexico and Juárez,” she said. “Transnational criminal organizations continue to encourage people to climb that barrier. They use ladders to climb to the top and then they pull the ladder off leaving the person stuck at the top of that barrier to figure out how they are going to descend.”

One of the most-high profile recent cases was a March 30 incident where smugglers dropped a 3-year-old girl and 5-year-old girl from a 14-foot-high border wall onto the U.S. side of the border near Mount Cristo Rey.

The smugglers then fled on the Mexico side leaving the girls alone on the U.S. side.

The young sisters from Ecuador were rescued by Border Patrol agents.

“Many of them (migrants) fall from the barrier,” Chavez said. “Many of them get injured severely and taken to the hospital, and some of them have died because they could not find a way down from the barrier.”

She continued, “These smugglers are very callous, and we should continue to seek prosecution for encouraging people to cross encouraging people to climb that barrier every day.”

Another danger is the U.S. canals which migrants attempt to cross but get swept away by fast moving currents and drown, Chavez said.

“The recent increase in water levels, it has led to numerous rescues and has already taken the lives of several migrants this year,” Chavez said. “The currents in the canal are very strong and pose a threat to even the most experienced swimmer.”

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(c) 2021 the El Paso Times

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