Migrant deaths forecasted to surpass last years numbers

68 bodies have been recovered so far this fiscal year in the Rio Grande Valley Sector

Courtesy photo.

Posted: Wednesday, May 18, 2016 1:46 pm

NEAR FALFURRIAS — Summer is the deadliest time of the year for migrants crossing illegally into the United States, but the number of bodies recovered by U.S. Border Patrol agents so far this year has nearly reached the total of last fiscal year.

During fiscal year 2015, agents in the Rio Grande Valley Sector recovered 69 migrant bodies compared to 68 in the last eight months, according to spokesman Lt. Isaac Villegas.

“These numbers are alarming,” Villegas said. “We want to make sure people know the dangers of the journey and convince them not to risk their lives.”

U.S. Border Patrol agents assigned to the Falfurrias station found three migrant bodies in the last week.

On May 11, agents were alerted by a man believed to be in the country illegally that he had seen a body of a person in a remote area of Brooks County. Agents responded and backtracked the man's footprints to the remains the unidentified person.

Two days after, agents following up on information provided by a concerned citizen discovered another unidentified person who had also died in a remote area of Brooks County. A third body was found by agents while they were tracking a group of suspected illegal crossers earlier this week.

The migrants' bodies are transferred to the Webb County Medical Examiner's office in Laredo where investigators will attempt to identify the bodies or remains and try to get them back to their families.

More than 1,000 migrants have died in the Rio Grande Valley Sector in the past 10 years, most in the vast ranchlands of Brooks County, according to Border Patrol data.

With the heat index rising and the summer months approaching, Chief Patrol Agent Manuel Padilla Jr. advised all immigrants to be cognizant of the extreme heat in South Texas and to not attempt the treacherous journey in a news release Wednesday.

"Human smugglers will treat you like a commodity and will not think twice about leaving you to die in desolate environments,” Padilla stated.

Next week, Padilla and Border Patrol officials will host their annual Border Safety Initiative event, where journalists are invited on a mile-long brush walk, mock BORSTAR rescue and tractor-trailer simulation.