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Migrant Deaths Serve as Grim Reminder of Dangers of Human Smuggling

Release Date: 
August 26, 2021

EDINBURG, Texas – Rio Grande Valley Sector (RGV) Border Patrol agents have encountered more that 412K migrants this fiscal year, but summer heat has taken its toll on migrants. Most of the more than 100 migrants discovered deceased this fiscal year in the Rio Grande Valley, were on rugged ranch lands in south Texas.

Agents are working diligently to mitigate migrant deaths. This fiscal year, agents have performed nearly a thousand rescues, as 9-1-1 calls from lost individuals have become a daily occurrence. 

Migrants are exposed to dangers even before setting foot on U.S. soil. In the RGV, a common method of illegal entry is via inflatable raft. Smugglers will overfill rafts, many times leading to the possibility of the vessel capsizing.  Another ongoing threat remains to be heat related illnesses, many of which occur after migrants are abandoned by smugglers. Checkpoint agents also remain vigilant for smuggling loads involving tractor trailers as smugglers use holding capacities of trailers to maximize their profits, dangerously filling 50 to 100 people in non-ventilated containers for hours at a time. Law enforcement partners frequently observe the reckless behavior of smugglers attempting to evade arrest while jeopardizing the lives of those they smuggle.

Distressed migrants abandoned by smugglers are left in desolate areas when they are unable to keep up with the rest of the group. RGV receives phone calls from family members pleading for agents to search specific areas for their loved ones after being notified the person was left behind by the foot guide.  Regrettably, there are instances when loved ones find help and return with assistance only to find their loved one has succumbed to the elements. Brooks and Kennedy Counties are approximately a 70-mile hike from the border and is primarily vast, desolate ranch lands.  The area is notorious for migrant deaths, especially during summer months, as smugglers attempt circumventing the checkpoint on foot. Last week alone, 10 decedents were discovered on the ranch lands. This month, more than 20 people have lost their lives during smuggling attempts.

To address the increase in the number of lost migrants requiring rescue in desolate ranch lands, several rescue beacons have been deployed throughout Rio Grande Valley Sector. The rescue beacons have been deployed in areas that will have the greatest impact on rescue efforts.  Rescue beacons are equipped with lights and signage, making it visible to lost and distressed subjects from a distance. Currently, 24 rescue beacons are deployed throughout the Rio Grande Valley Sector.  By the end of the fiscal year, RGV will have 48 rescue beacons deployed, intended to save lives.

Even with the spread of the COVID-19 virus, human smugglers continue to try these brazen attempts with zero regard for the lives they endanger nor to the health of the citizens of our great nation.  The U.S. Border Patrol agents of the Rio Grande Valley Sector will continue to safeguard the nation and community against these criminal elements.

Please visit www.cbp.gov to view additional news releases and other information pertaining to Customs and Border Protection.  Follow us on Twitter @CBPRGV, @USBPChiefRGV and @USBPDepChiefRGV.

Last modified: 
August 30, 2021