Three children and one woman found dead along US-Mexico border

‘This is the first time we’ve actually found infants and toddlers, and it is pretty shocking for us,’ says sheriff

Manny Fernandez,Mitchell Ferman
Tuesday 25 June 2019 14:34
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Three children and one woman found dead along US-Mexico border

The bodies of what appeared to be a migrant woman in her 20s and three young children have been found near the US border with Mexico, authorities said.

Migrant deaths happen with grim regularity along the southwestern US border, usually when adults and unaccompanied teenagers succumb to harsh desert conditions or a lack of water. They often die of dehydration, heat stroke or hypothermia.

However, the discovery of the two infants and a toddler on Sunday was unusual – it is rare for officials to find dead migrant children on the US side of the border and rarer still for their bodies to be found together.

“Most of the time we usually find either adults or teenagers, but this is the first time we’ve actually found infants and toddlers, and it is pretty shocking for us,” tweeted Hidalgo County Sheriff J E Guerra.

Officials said there were no signs of foul play as yet, adding that the four may have died from dehydration and heat exposure. They appeared to be illegal immigrants, but neither their identities nor their country of origin could immediately be determined.

Migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras have crossed the border by the thousands in recent months, overwhelming Border Patrol agents, nonprofit groups and local officials.

The four bodies were found near the edge of Rio Grande river, across from Reynosa, Mexico – an area of the US that is often travelled by Central American families. They were in a brush-covered region southeast of Anzalduas Park on property managed by the state Fish and Wildlife Service.

“It’s an incredibly heartbreaking situation, which seems to happen far too often,” said special agent Michelle Lee, a spokesperson for the FBI in San Antonio. The FBI is leading the investigations because the bodies were found on federal land.

Early on Monday morning, Anzalduas Park was quiet. The only noises were chirping birds and a slight ripple from the river, aside from the occasional Border Patrol truck or county constable vehicle driving by.

The 96-acre park – which has picnic tables, playgrounds and a boat dock six miles from the town of McAllen – has been a popular backdrop for visiting officials from Washington. Donald Trump passed through earlier this year during his only visit to the Texas-Mexico border as president.

The area near the park along the Rio Grande has been a migrant-crossing hub. Migrant families cross the river here on makeshift rafts and then walk inland in search of Border Patrol agents so they can turn themselves in.

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Migrant deaths are more common far north of the river’s edge, on private ranchland deeper into South Texas. Water is harder to find there, the terrain is more isolated and expansive, and migrants often hike for days, ill-prepared for the journey.

It was unclear what went wrong for the woman and children whose bodies were found: whether they had gotten lost in the brush in the heat, whether they were already ill when they crossed the river, whether they were abandoned by smugglers or other migrants.

Mr Guerra said they were found in a makeshift staging area, a clearing where groups of migrants often gather after they cross the river.

South Texas is always hot in June, but the heat has been extreme in recent days.

Over the past week in the Rio Grande valley, temperatures have regularly approached or exceeded 40C. On Wednesday, the temperature hit 42C.

The valley is the busiest Border Patrol sector for migrant apprehensions on the nearly 2,000-mile border with Mexico.

Earlier this month, agents in the Rio Grande valley apprehended more than 4,100 migrants in just three days.

In May, 132,887 migrants were apprehended between ports of entry across the southern border, an increase from 99,304 in April, according to official figures.

© The New York Times

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