- Ali Bradley
El Paso Border Patrol works to correct messaging as injuries, heat-related deaths and drownings rise
Sectors across the southwestern border are seeing an uptick in migrant injuries, drownings and heat-related deaths.
In El Paso, first responders and law enforcement officials explain the dangers of illegal crossings. Captain Kris Menendez with El Paso Fire Dept. Water And Rescue says passing through the border barriers and the canals puts not only the lives of the migrant at risk but also endangers the lives of the individuals who take action to help.
El Paso Border Patrol Sector Chief Gloria Chavez says undocumented individuals are trusting transnational criminal organizations to evade arrest and are climbing the border barrier or they are jumping into the International Boundary and Water Commission canals that run parallel to the U.S. border with Mexico. Within a week, five drownings happened in the canal as border patrol says the canals are deeper than they appear and the current and undertow are significant. Border Patrol agents ran through different response scenarios, from assisting someone who falls from the border barrier, to someone swept away in the canals.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a warning this month to anyone attempting to use the canals as a crossing point. The sector has already recorded 37 deaths for the fiscal year when compared to 39 last year.
Dr. Tyroch says these patients don't have insurance and often time stay for weeks as they require multiple surgeries.
"Securing our nation's borders continues to be our primary mission," Chief Gloria Chavez explains that migrants are also being hurt or killed climbing over the "border barrier" or by being swept away in the canals. Dr. Alan Tyroch is the Trauma Medical Director University Medical Center and he says 82% of trauma victims they see sustain injuries falling from the wall. Dr. Tyroch says each story is 10 feet, so people are falling from the equivalent of a three-story building.
Last year, UMC assisted 322 patients in their trauma center or emergency department. Dr. Tyroch says 56 percent were males with an average age of 31. He says each patient costs around 43-thousand dollars to care for as most require multiple surgeries.
Sectors across Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California are also dealing with heat-related deaths. This comes as migrants cross with groups and fall behind from exhaustion or injury. The group will leave the more vulnerable migrants, like women and children, behind in the extreme elements.
Earlier this month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced new "Heat Stress Kits/Go-Bags" that are being distributed to help reduce heat-related injuries. Agents will also undergo annual training according to the agency.
Meanwhile, Del Rio is generally quiet when it comes to bodies washing ashore as this crossing point from Acuna is one of the "safer" places to cross. However, law enforcement pulled at least 4 bodies from the water in just a 10 day span. 2 of the drownings were brothers, one was 7 years old and one was 9. One of them was never recovered.
When the Amistad Dam is let out to provide water for the Rio Grande Valley or for Mexico, the water can be unpredictable and swift or high. Coyotes and Cartel capitalized off of the dangerous conditions and force families with little ones to cross in order to create a crisis to get law enforcement to respond. Border agents tell me this is all by design and leaves miles of the border unmanned.
However, when it comes to the Del Rio Sector (DRT) as a whole, the numbers change dramatically. Eagle Pass, which is part of the DRT has experienced roughly 30 drownings since the start of May. A woman died from the elements today after crossing the Rio Grande into Eagle Pass.