Illegal Immigrant Deaths Along Border Credited to Scorching Heat, Agents Say Bodies Stay in County

Illegal Immigrant Deaths Along Border Credited to Scorching Heat, Agents Say Bodies Stay in County

By Alicia Neaves

NewsWest 9

BIG BEND REGION - Thousands have crossed the Texas border in recent months. Before many make it, they fall victim to drug cartels, trafficking or the scorching heat. What happens to these bodies when they're discovered along the border without identification?

In June and July on the border of Ojinaga and Presidio, temperatures can reach as high as 116 degrees. That's one of the reasons why Border Patrol saw 228 deaths of immigrants headed to West Texas.

"Heat plays a major factor in that. Combined with the distances they have to walk and also with the knowledge of the area or lack thereof," Supervisory Border Patrol Agent in the Big Bend Sector, Martin Valenzuela, said.

From October of 2012 to July of 2013, Big Bend Border Patrol agents found the bodies of 297 illegal immigrants who fell victim to the dangers of crossing the border. The culprit 99% of the time, they say, is dehydration.

"You get turned around here one time, you'll lose two or three days. It could turn from a four or five day walk, all of a sudden it's a two-week walk," Valenzuela said.

During that same time, Border Patrol rescued over 1,800.

From October of 2013 to July 1 of 2014, there were 228 deaths along the border and just over 1,100 rescues. Border Patrol credits better training and resources to the significant drop. They warn, though, that attempts to cross the border in urban areas are much easier than the Big Bend region.

"You're able to stop at a store or get a drink of water or something like that. When you cross here, we don't have that infrastructure around here. There's no place to get that water or get those resources that the body needs to survive," Valenzuela said.

The dry, cracked land on the bank of the Rio Grande river is simply a testimony of how hot and dry it can get in the region. Imagine taking the trek of about 70 miles on average in temperatures that can reach as high as 116 degrees with no food or water.

"105 from 95 may not seem like too much of a difference but it's a big difference. Ten degrees is a big difference," Valenzuela said.

Border Patrol says any body encountered will stay in the county it was found. From there, Border Patrol will contact that particular sheriff's office where they will proceed with transporting the corpse to the appropriate facility.