28 Dec 2016
McAllen, TX

Human smugglers in south Texas again revealed their callous disregard for human life when they abandoned 11 illegal immigrants, including small children, in the middle of the Rio Grande River.

U.S. Border Patrol agents assigned to the Rio Grande Valley Sector quickly responded to a life-threatening situation after human smugglers forced a raft to capsize, tossing seven children and four adults into the water. One of the children was listed as an infant, according to information obtained from Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Marlene Castro.

The incident occurred Monday night at about 10:20 p.m. Agents observed a raft filled with children and some adults crossing the river near McAllen, Texas. The human smugglers, likely tied to a Mexican drug cartel, had a rope tied to the raft to quickly retrieve it and prevent Border Patrol agents from seizing the craft.

After the human smugglers detected the Border Patrol, they quickly gunned the engine of the truck tied to the raft, jerking it up out of the water and tossing the occupants into the river. The action by the smugglers caused the migrants to be violently tossed into the air, Castro noted.

Because of the darkness, the agents were forced to approach the party in the water slowly, officials stated. One agent in a boat jumped into the water while other agents were throwing life jackets to the migrants having trouble staying afloat.

Other agents jumped into the water from the riverbank to assist the struggling children. Agents later determined that five of the seven children were under the age of nine, including one child that was only one-year-old, Castro stated.

The agents quickly got the people into rescue boats while the smugglers, who were wearing life jackets the entire time, swam back to Mexico. None were injured in the incident.

“Due to the heroic actions of these selfless Border Patrol agents, no lives were lost last night and no one was injured,” Rio Grande Valley Sector Deputy Chief Patrol Agent Raul Ortiz said in the written statement. “These agents risked their own lives to save these helpless individuals left to die due to the actions of ruthless smugglers. I commend their actions and am extremely proud of them.”

During processing, the agents learned the illegal immigrants were from Honduras and Nicaragua.