Posted on Tue, May. 02, 2006

Border Patrol ads warn migrants of boxcar dangers

Associated Press

HARLINGEN, Texas - The heavy door closed with a thud then locked from the outside, filling the boxcar with sweltering heat.

"This could be their coffin," Border Patrol agent Jose Rodriguez said of the many illegal immigrants who try to sneak into the U.S. in boxcars and truck trailers.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency chose a rail yard on the outskirts of this Mexican border city for Tuesday's release of radio and television ads discouraging would-be immigrants in Mexico and Central America from getting into boxcars and tractor-trailers.

The number of immigrants found in boxcars and tractor trailers in the Border Patrol's Rio Grande Valley sector alone, at 199 this year, is more than nine times what it was for the same period last year, when 22 were found. Thirty-seven have died from confined conditions since the fiscal year began in October, compared with 54 for fiscal 2005.

Local Border Patrol agents, including Rodriguez, and their children are actors in the four-ad "Confined Spaces" public service announcement. The announcements are issued annually.

They depict callous smugglers throwing a few jugs of water in the car before slamming the doors and desperate immigrants suffering in the airless cars and then pounding on the sides to get out.

In one scene, Border Patrol agents open a car to find it full of dead bodies - reminiscent of the 2003 scene in Victoria, Texas, when 19 people suffocated or literally cooked to death in the back of a tractor-trailer.

All the ads are in Spanish.

Border Patrol spokesman Roy Cervantes said the dramatic increase in illegal immigrants found alive in boxcars and trailers, which the Border Patrol labels "rescues," is attributed to more immigration enforcement in the area between the border and highway checkpoints about 70 miles north.