Staffing increases and technological improvements by the U.S. Border Patrol have helped reduce illegal immigration along the southwestern border in the past few years. Yet hundreds continue to die each year during desperate bids to reach the U.S.
The deaths of 10 immigrants trapped inside a tractor-trailer in San Antonio has thrown a harsh spotlight on the persistent humanitarian crisis that tests the limits of officials whose mission is to catch immigrants who enter the country illegally — and rescue them when their lives are in danger, says the San Antonio Express-News. The Department of Homeland Security regularly warns migrants against nefarious smugglers and the perils of the journey, but the message has done little to deter migrants fleeing violence and extreme poverty. Far fewer immigrants have been attempting to cross the border illegally in recent years as the U.S. Border Patrol has seen both staffing and technology grow, but hundreds of migrants still die every year in desperate bids to reach the U.S.
During the 2016 fiscal year, the Rio Grande Valley registered 130 immigrant deaths, more than any other border sector. Texas accounted for nearly 67 percent of all migrant deaths across the Southwest border last year. There have been about 800 rescues since October in the Rio Grande Valley, the busiest stretch of border. During one brutal stretch of 100-degree days this summer, Border Patrol agents recovered the bodies of six migrants who died in the South Texas brush. Last week a body was discovered on a ranch near Falfurrias, and two more were pulled from the Rio Grande — one near Brownsville and the other recovered upriver by Mexican authorities.