MISSION -- Imagine walking through miles and miles of brush under the hot sun. There are hundreds of people around -- adults, children, families, even pregnant women -- all following a trusted guide that will lead them to their promised destination. The heat intensifies, water is beginning to run out, and the group grows smaller and smaller as the journey continues. It’s only been several miles and people, as well as articles of clothing, are already being left behind.
This is the exact scenario that takes place almost every week at Rincon Village, a popular landing ground for illegal immigrants entering the United States.
It is also the scenario media got to experience Monday afternoon at a Border Safety Initiative hosted by the Border Patrol in order to see first hand the extreme conditions both migrants and Border Patrol agents face when helping injured individuals. Guided by Agent Alfred Lozano, as well as several other Border Patrol agents, many completed the mile walk in a migrants shoes with medical assistance by their side. United States Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also joined, witnessing the many pieces of clothing, crushed water bottles, deflated rafts and dirty diapers along the dirt trail -- the losses many immigrants encounter throughout their journey.
“We don’t want to see any deaths out here on the border, but we need to recognize that they do happen,” said Chief Patrol Agent Rodolfo Karisch. “We have a responsibility in making sure that we educate people as to what the environment is here. That’s why we do these events. We want to promote safety. It’s about saving lives; it’s about being out here performing rescues.”
According to Karisch, nearly 600 rescues and 12 deaths have occured in the Rio Grande Valley sector. Approximately 266,000 people have been apprehended in this area, and while the influx of illegal immigrants and lack of unit space is a growing problem, an even greater issue lies around illnesses, smugglers and “fraudulent families.”
After visiting a McAllen processing unit earlier in the day and attending the Border Safety event, Cruz dubbed it a “humanitarian crisis,” one in which he says Congress is at fault.
The Texas lawmaker said the only solution to end this crisis is for Congress to stop political posturing, solve the problem and close the loopholes.
For Cruz, that means enforcing the law and ending catch and release practices to no longer encourage illegal immigration. If the smugglers who are creating fraudulent families, endangering children and other individuals, know they will be apprehended regardless if they have a child, then many won’t have to face the dangerous conditions it takes to cross the border.
“We know how to solve this problem. We’ve seen how to solve it,” Cruz said.. “Our policies, the loopholes Congress has put in place, is encouraging people to risk their lives. Even more tragically, it’s putting children in harm’s way.”
Karisch hopes that those who attended the safety event are not only able to understand Border Patrol’s mission, but spread that information to the public in order to prevent further deaths and injuries.
“A wise man once told me, ‘Simply crossing a border should not equate to a death sentence,’” Karisch said. “There is a way to come into this country, and that is through port of entry. Do not put your lives in the hands of a smuggler. They are just interested in making money, and will leave you out in the desert to die.”