In what’s already been a deadly year along the US-Mexico border, the Border Patrol is warning immigrants not to risk their lives to cross illegally into the US.
In just the El Paso, Texas, area, at least 40 immigrants have died trying to cross into the country this year alone. Most of the deaths are associated with drownings in the Rio Grande or falls from the border wall.
In a joint effort with the Mexican government, the US Border Patrol is working to get out the message that crossing the border is much more dangerous than immigrants think, often because smuggling organizations lie to immigrants and downplay the danger.
“Transnational criminal organizations continue to risk immigrant lives,” said US Border Patrol Chief Patrol Agent for El Paso Sector, Gloria Chavez. “Their main objective is to make money.”
In the last few weeks, at least a dozen immigrants have drowned in the river that separates the US from Mexico, prompting calls for a public safety campaign. To get the message directly to immigrants, the Border Patrol and Mexican government released a video in Spanish, telling immigrants what they’re really up against when they cross the border.
“The border presents a number of challenges, like dangerous canals that even the best swimmers can’t handle and hostile desert climates where immigrants can become dehydrated and collapse,” the consul general for Mexico, Mauricio Ibarra Ponce De Leon, says in the video.
The summer months are traditionally the most deadly along the border, as immigrants underestimate soaring temperatures in the desert. Last year near Del Rio, Texas, 24 immigrants died from heat exposure and another 770 had to be rescued or given medical attention.
A relatively new danger for illegal border crossers is the border wall, which has already been responsible for several deaths along the border, as immigrants fall off of it.
“Human smugglers force immigrants to climb the border wall only to abandon them at the top or push them down, causing serious injuries — including deaths. These smugglers, without mercy, endanger immigrant lives,” said Ponce De Leon.
Immigrants are either rescued from the top of the border wall by authorities on the US side or drop about nine feet to the ground, often causing serious injuries to their backs, legs and spine. In the El Paso area, there have been 229 injuries or deaths related to falls from the border wall.
“The whole world has witnessed how children as young as 3 years old have been pushed over the wall and then abandoned in the desert. There have been cases of pregnant women who have been pushed off the wall,” said Chavez.
In a final plea not to cross the border illegally, the Mexican official makes the case that a serious injury could defeat the whole purpose for the immigrant to cross the border.
“Think of your family and those who depend on you. Don’t condemn yourself to an injury that will maim you for life,” said Ponce De Leon.
Despite their pleas, the Border Patrol is seeing the highest numbers it’s ever seen for immigrants crossing the border, with the Del Rio and Rio Grande areas of Texas the busiest in the nation.