Border patrol: 9 migrants die crossing swift Texas river (2023)

By Elliot Spagat and Sean Murphy | Associated Press

Officials on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border searched for more victims Saturday after at least nine migrants died while trying to cross the rain-swollen Rio Grande, a dangerous border-crossing attempt in an area where the river level had risen by more than 2 feet in a single day.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Mexican officials discovered the victims near Eagle Pass, Texas, on Thursday, following days of heavy rains. U.S. officials recovered six bodies, while Mexican teams recovered three, according to a CBP statement. It is one of the deadliest drownings on the U.S.-Mexico border in recent history.

The river, which was a little more than 3 feet (90 centimeters) deep at the start of the week, reached more than 5 feet (1.5 meters) on Thursday, and the water was flowing five times faster than usual, according to the National Weather Service.

(Video) Border Patrol: 9 migrants found dead in Rio Grande at Texas

The CBP said U.S. crews rescued 37 others from the river and detained 16 more, while Mexican officials took 39 migrants into custody.

CBP did not say what country or countries the migrants were from and did not provide any additional information on rescue and search operations. Local agencies in Texas that were involved have not responded to requests for information.

Among the bodies recovered from the river by Mexican authorities was a man and a pregnant woman, although their nationalities were unknown, said Francisco Contreras, a member of Civil Protection in the Mexican border state of Coahuila. No details were released about the third body found.

The Border Patrol’s Del Rio sector, which includes Eagle Pass, is fast becoming the busiest corridor for illegal crossings. Agents stopped migrants nearly 50,000 times in the sector in July, with Rio Grande Valley a distant second at about 35,000. Eagle Pass is about 140 miles (225 kilometers) southwest of San Antonio.

Chief Patrol Agent Jason Owens of the Del Rio sector said that despite dangerous currents from recent rainfall, Border Patrol agents in the sector continue to encounter groups as large as 100 or 200 people trying to cross the Rio Grande each day.

(Video) At least eight migrants dead after attempting hazardous crossing of Rio Grande

“In an effort to prevent further loss of life, we are asking everyone to please avoid crossing illegally,” Owens said in a statement.

Among the reasons the area has become popular for migrants in recent years is that it is not as strongly controlled by cartels and is perceived to be somewhat safer, said Stephanie Leutert, director of Central America and Mexico Policy Initiative at the University of Texas’ Center for International Security and Law.

“It might be a different price. It might be seen as safer. It might keep you out of cities that are notoriously dangerous,” Leutert said. “Those cities (in the Del Rio sector) definitely have had a reputation as being safer than say, Nuevo Laredo.”

The area draws migrants from dozens of countries, many of them families with young children. About six of 10 stops in the Del Rio sector in July were migrants from Venezuela, Cuba or Nicaragua. The region also has been a popular crossing point for migrants from Haiti, thousands of whom have been stuck in border towns since 2016, when the Obama administration abruptly halted a policy that initially allowed them in on humanitarian grounds.

The sector, which extends 245 miles (395 kilometers) along the Río Grande, has been especially dangerous because river currents can be deceptively fast and change quickly. Crossing the river can be challenging even for strong swimmers.

(Video) Migrants risk death in effort to cross Rio Grande into Texas | Rush Hour

“There are places when the water levels are down where you could wade across, but when the river is up it’s extremely dangerous, especially if you’re carrying kids or trying to help someone who is not a strong swimmer,” Leutert said.

In a news release last month, CBP said it had discovered bodies of more than 200 dead migrants in the sector from October through July.

This year is on track to break last year’s record for the most deaths on the U.S.-Mexico border since 2014, when the U.N. International Organization for Migration began keeping record. The organization has tallied more than 4,000 deaths on the border since 2014, based on news reports and other sources, including 728 last year and 412 during the first seven months of this year, often from dehydration or drowning. June was the fourth-deadliest month on record, with 138 fatalities.

The Border Patrol has not released official tallies since 2020.

In June, 53 migrants were found dead or dying in a tractor-trailer on a back road in San Antonio in the deadliest documented tragedy to claim the lives of migrants smuggled across the border from Mexico.

(Video) Haitian immigrants attack pilots and ICE officers on deportation flight

“The whole journey speaks to the desperation of people,” Leutert said. “They know that crossing the river is dangerous. They know that hiking through ranchland is dangerous. They know that crossing Mexico as a foreigner is dangerous. But they’re willing to do this because what they’re leaving behind is, to them, a worse possibility than facing risk and trying for a better opportunity in the U.S.”

Some of the busiest crossings on the border — including Eagle Pass and Yuma, Arizona — were relatively quiet two years ago and now largely draw migrants from outside Mexico and Central America’s ‘Northern Triangle’ countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Mexico has agreed to take migrants from the ‘Northern Triangle’ countries, as well as its own nationals, if they are expelled from the United States under Title 42, the pandemic rule in effect since March 2020 that denies rights to seek asylum on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19.

People from other countries are likely to be released into the United States on humanitarian parole or with notices to appear in immigration court because the U.S. has difficulty flying them home due to costs, strained diplomatic relations or other considerations. In the Border Patrol’s Del Rio sector, which includes Eagle Pass, only one of every four stops in July were processed under the pandemic rule, compared to about half across the rest of the border, according to government figures.

Venezuelans were by far the most common nationality encountered by Border Patrol agents in the Del Rio sector in July, accounting for 14,120 of 49,563 stops, or nearly three in 10. They were followed by Cubans, who were stopped 10,275 times, and then by Mexicans, Hondurans, Nicaraguans and Colombians, in that order.

As more people crossed into South Texas in the 2010s, Brooks County became a death trap for many migrants who tried walking around a Border Patrol highway checkpoint in the town of Falfurrias, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) north of the border. Smugglers dropped them off before the checkpoint and made arrangements to pick them up on the other side, but some perished on the way from dehydration.

(Video) Camp housing mostly Haitians migrants cleared in Del Rio, Texas

The Baboquivari Mountains in Arizona and ranches in Texas’ Brooks County still draw Border Patrol agents and grief-stricken families hoping to rescue migrants or, if not, find corpses, but the deceptively strong currents around the Texas towns of Eagle Pass and Del Rio have become increasingly dangerous as the area has become one of the most popular spots to enter the United States illegally.

Not all victims are migrants. In April this year, the body of a Texas guardsman was recovered from the Rio Grande. He had jumped in to try to help a migrant who was struggling in the water.

Spagat reported from San Diego and Murphy reported from Oklahoma City. Associated Press writers Terry Wallace in Dallas and Fabiola Sanchez in Mexico City contributed.


How many have died crossing the border? ›

More than 560 migrants died in FY 2021, according to internal government figures, setting the previous record for a single year. Immigration authorities say the criminal organizations that smuggle migrants over the border are largely to blame.

What does Border Patrol want? ›

Mission. The priority mission of the Border Patrol is preventing terrorists and terrorists weapons, including weapons of mass destruction, from entering the United States. Undaunted by scorching desert heat or freezing northern winters, they work tirelessly as vigilant protectors of our Nation's borders.

Why Border Patrol is important? ›

Together with other law enforcement officers, the Border Patrol helps maintain borders that work, facilitating the flow of legal immigration and goods while preventing the illegal trafficking of people and contraband.

Does Texas have Border Patrol? ›

Service Area: Since 1924, the Sector has grown to include more than 1500 employees, including 100 support staff and more than 1400 Border Patrol Agents assigned to cover 41 counties of Texas.

How many people have died crossing the border in 2022? ›

Nearly 750 migrants have died along the southern border during fiscal year 2022, according to Department of Homeland Security data obtained by CNN--a number that shatters the previous annual record as the U.S. grapples with a historic migrant surge.

How many immigrants are in the US 2022? ›

The 46.6 million immigrants (legal and illegal) in the country in January 2022 is the largest number recorded in any government survey or decennial census going back to 1850.

What do border agents know about you? ›

Various types of tax information such as any Delinquent Tax payments. Current Job. Complete history of all border crossings – including state ports where there are border checks. Frequent traveler memberships such as Global Entry or NEXUS.

What do Border Patrol agents see when they scan your passport? ›

When an immigration agent scans your passport into their computer terminal, do they see all your previous/recent travel history? No. Not yet anyway. The scan reads the machine code text with your name, dob, pob, cItizenship, passport number and validity so the agent does not have to type it in.

What is the 100 mile border law? ›

The federal government defines a “reasonable distance” as 100 air miles from any external boundary of the U.S. So, combining this federal regulation and the federal law regarding warrantless vehicle searches, CBP claims authority to board a bus or train without a warrant anywhere within this 100-mile zone.

Do you have to show ID at Border Patrol checkpoint? ›

You need to present a government issued ID. It must be Real ID compliant (usually a driver's license) or a valid passport. Even for domestic flights. The passport is not used as a means to grant entry at the destination like on an international flight, it is just one valid form of government issued ID.

Can Border Patrol pull you over? ›

Customs and Border Patrol are also conducting roving patrols and may also attempt to pull you over. They must have reasonable suspicion that the driver or passengers in your car committed some immigration violation or a federal crime, and they must have a probable cause to continue the stop.

How many Border Patrol checkpoints are in Texas? ›

There are more than 110 checkpoints, located generally 25 to 100 miles from the southwest and northern borders along U.S. highways and secondary roads. All vehicles traveling through a checkpoint may be subject to a checkpoint inspection.

Can you refuse a Border Patrol checkpoint? ›

If you are an immigrant without documents, you can decline the officer's request. An agent may likely ask you more questions if you decline a request.

Can Border Patrol enter your home without a warrant? ›

Immigration officers may not enter your home unless they have a “warrant.” A warrant is a document issued by a court or government agency. There are two types of warrant — one for when they are coming to arrest you, and another for when they have permission from a judge tosearch your home.

How long can you be detained at the border? ›

In most cases, Immigration must decide within 48 hours whether to put you into immigration proceedings (in front of a judge), and whether to keep you in custody or to release you on bond. After 72 hours, Immigration must give you a Notice to Appear (NTA).

How many people have died crossing the Rio Grande? ›

The organization has tallied more than 4,000 deaths on the border since 2014, based on news reports and other sources, including 728 last year and 412 during the first seven months of this year, often from dehydration or drowning.

How many have died on US border? ›

The group Border Angels estimates that since 1994, about 10,000 people have died in their attempt to cross border. According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 8,050 people have died crossing the U.S–Mexico border between 1998 and 2020. In 2005, more than 500 died across the entire U.S.–Mexico border.

How many migrants have drowned in the Rio Grande? ›

In addition to the nine migrants who died, 37 others were rescued, the statement said, among a total of 53 migrants taken into custody by the U.S. authorities at the scene. The Mexican authorities apprehended an additional 39 migrants who were part of the group.

Which state has the most immigrants? ›

Foreign born population
StateTotal foreign born populationForeign born population (%)
New Jersey2,033,29222.8
New Mexico198,5229.5
New York4,447,16522.8
North Carolina824,1777.9
47 more rows

Which country takes in the most immigrants? ›

United States of America

The United States is far and away the most popular destination for the world's immigrants. With more than 51 million foreign-born residents living in the U.S., the country has nearly four times as many immigrants as any other nation in the world.

Which country has the most American immigrants? ›

However, it only has the top 13 countries with the most U.S. expats.
Countries With Most American Expats.
CountryNumber of Americans (estimated)
United Kingdom171,000
10 more rows
12 Oct 2022

Can Border Patrol search your phone? ›

Without having to show any suspicion, a CBP officer can conduct what's called a “basic search,” which means examining a digital device and “review[ing] and analyz[ing] information encountered at the border.” Travelers are required to provide their passcodes.

What comes up when your passport is scanned? ›

There are multiple purposes for scanning the passport: They confirm the legitimacy of the document. It pulls up your record in their internal/system databases. It pulls up your immigration history.

Does Border Patrol search every car? ›

Border Patrol cannot search the interior of a vehicle without the owner's consent or “probable cause” (a reasonable belief, based on the circumstances, that an immigration violation or crime has likely occurred).

How do you know if your passport is flagged? ›

You don't. There is no way to tell. You don't have access to whatever databases are being used and there are no public postings of flagged passports. There are no numbers to call as that is private info and unable to passed over a phone.

Does immigration know your travel history? ›

Answer: The Department of State does not keep records of citizens' travels. The only record of your travels is your passport containing entry and exit stamps. The immigration office of the country/s you traveled to MAY be able to provide you with information on your entry into their borders.

Does passport control know where you have been? ›

The date, time and place of passport control is recorded in the system.

Does the 4th Amendment apply to border searches? ›

This balance at international borders means that routine searches are "reasonable" there, and therefore do not violate the Fourth Amendment's proscription against "unreasonable searches and seizures".

Can Border Patrol enter your home within 100 miles? ›

Specifically, federal regulations give U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) authority to operate within 100 miles of any U.S. "external boundary." In this 100-mile zone, Border Patrol agents have certain additional authorities.

Can Border Patrol enter private property 100 miles? ›

1 CBP agents can also even enter private property without a warrant (excepting dwellings) within 25 miles of any border. In this 100-mile zone, CBP has claimed certain extra-constitutional powers. For instance, Border Patrol claims the authority to operate immigration checkpoints.

Do they XRAY your car at the border? ›

Although all X-ray scans conducted by CBP are safe and do not pose any threat to the public's health, CBP gives the driver and any other occupants of the vehicle the option to bypass pre-primary X-ray, though they are still subject to other forms of inspection.

What questions do they ask you at the border? ›

  • At the Entry Point. ...
  • Border and Customs Protection. ...
  • Questions & Answers about US Customs. ...
  • What is the reason for your trip to the United States? ...
  • How long do you plan on staying in the country? ...
  • What is your line of work? ...
  • Who are you going to see? ...
  • Have you ever been convicted of anything?
21 Jul 2022

Do I have to answer customs questions? ›

If you are a U.S. citizen, you need only answer questions establishing your identity and citizenship, although refusing to answer routine questions about the nature and purpose of your travel could result in delay and/or further inspection.

Can U.S. citizens be stopped at the border? ›

There is no limit on how long CBP officials can hold a U.S. citizen, but they usually don't hold people for more than several hours or overnight because courts may look upon the detention as unreasonable, per Cope.

What handgun does Border Patrol use? ›

Border Patrol agents have a choice of being issued either the Glock 47 or the Glock 19M pistol in 9mm caliber. The Glock 47 can contain as many as 18 rounds of ammunition (17 in the magazine and 1 in the chamber), while the Glock 19 can contain as many as 16 rounds.

Do you have the right to remain silent at border? ›

Q: Do I have to answer questions asked by law enforcement officers? A: No. You have the constitutional right to remain silent. In general, you do not have to talk to law enforcement officers (or anyone else), even if you do not feel free to walk away from the officer, you are arrested, or you are in jail.

Where in Texas are there immigration checkpoints? ›

  • U.S. Route 62 – 33 miles east of El Paso. ...
  • Sierra Blanca - located between El Paso and Van Horn, 5 miles west of Sierra Blanca on Interstate 10. ...
  • Eagle Pass - located 11 miles east of Eagle Pass on U.S. Route 57. ...
  • Eagle Pass/Carrizo Springs - located 30 miles east-southeast of Eagle Pass on U.S. Route 277.

Is there a checkpoint on the way to South Padre? ›

There is a checkpoint on Hwy 281 near Falfurrias and a checkpoint on Hwy 77 near Kingsville. Both are about 70 miles from the Mexican border. We just left padre and didn't go through it.

What do U.S. immigration officers see on their screen? ›

They'll see all your current travel history to the US and any details regarding prior immigration issues.

Can immigration officers enter my house? ›

An immigration officer has the power to enter and search, without a warrant but importantly with the authorisation of a chief immigration officer or above, any premises where they believe on reasonable grounds that a suspect is, in order to make an arrest for a range of suspected offences.

Does Border Patrol check for warrants? ›

Customs makes THOUSANDS of arrests every year, becauase so many people crossing the border have outstanding arrest warrants. So yes, they surely do show up, if the warrant has been entered into NCIC.

Why do I always get sent to secondary inspection? ›

If the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry cannot verify your information, or if you do not have all of the required documentation, a CBP officer may direct you to an interview area known as “secondary inspection.” Secondary inspection allows inspectors to conduct additional research ...

Can a deported person come back legally by marrying a citizen? ›

Deported immigrants may be able to re-enter the country by marrying a U.S. citizen through a waiver of inadmissibility. This waiver allows deportees to return to the U.S. early and receive either a green card or immigrant visa.

What happens to immigrants when they are detained? ›

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Detention and Removal Office is holding you. After you are arrested, you will be placed in a holding cell or temporary processing station where you will be fingerprinted and interviewed. (Sometimes, some processing occurs during the arrest.)

How long can ICE hold an immigrant? ›

A: If ICE does not assume custody after 48 hours (excluding weekends and holidays), the local law enforcement agency (LEA) is required to release the individual. The LEA may not lawfully hold an individual beyond the 48-hour period.

How many people have died crossing the channel this year? ›

November 2021 English Channel disaster
Part of the English Channel migrant crossings (2018–present)
Date24 November 2021
CauseVessel capsized
Non-fatal injuries2
2 more rows

How many immigrants have died trying to cross the Channel? ›

According to the International Organization for Migration, since 2014, 166 migrants have been recorded dead or missing in the English Channel and 22,930 have been recorded dead or missing in the Mediterranean Sea.

How many people have died crossing the Rio Grande? ›

The organization has tallied more than 4,000 deaths on the border since 2014, based on news reports and other sources, including 728 last year and 412 during the first seven months of this year, often from dehydration or drowning.

How many people cross the US Mexico border every year? ›

approximately 350 million

What happens to the migrants who cross the Channel? ›

They usually cannot work while their case is being considered. If their application for asylum is accepted, they are allowed to stay in the UK. If it is rejected, they face being returned to the country they came from, although they can appeal against the decision.

How many asylum seekers have died crossing the Channel? ›

Deaths. According to the International Organization for Migration, at least 52 migrants have drowned in the English Channel trying to reach the UK between 2018 and 2021.

How many immigrants cross the Channel each day? ›

Migrant crossings: Nearly 1,000 people cross English Channel in a day as numbers approach total for all of 2021.

How many people died trying to immigrate to America? ›

Exposure (including heat stroke, dehydration, and hyperthermia) were the leading cause. The group Border Angels estimates that since 1994, about 10,000 people have died in their attempt to cross border.

Which country has the most refugees? ›

Türkiye hosts the largest number of refugees, with 3.8 million people. Colombia is second with more than 1.8 million, including Venezuelans displaced abroad.
Welcome to UNHCR's Refugee Population Statistics Database.
Syrian Arab Republic6.8 million
South Sudan2.4 million
Myanmar1.2 million
2 more rows
16 Jun 2022

Why do people try to cross the Channel? ›

Many people we support have crossed the Channel in the hopes of finding and joining family who have already made it to the UK. Often people are separated from their loved ones as they flee their home or on their journey in search of safety – which can take many years.

What happened to Rio Grande river? ›

The Rio Grande went dry in Albuquerque for first time in 40 years. A key fish habitat went with it. For the first time in four decades, North America's fifth-longest river went dry in Albuquerque, New Mexico, last week. Habitat for the endangered Rio Grande silvery minnow went with it.

How long does it take to cross Darien Gap? ›

The trek across the Darién Gap is 97 kilometers long and can take more than a week to complete. Migrants have no choice but to travel on foot.

Is the Rio Grande easy to cross? ›

People from dozens of countries, many of them in families with young children, attempt to cross the US border and crossing the Rio Grande has been especially dangerous because river currents can be deceptively fast and change quickly. Crossing the river can be challenging even for strong swimmers.

How many undocumented immigrants live in Texas? ›

StateUnauthorized immigrant population% of unauthorized immigrant adults in U.S. 5 years or less
48 more rows
5 Feb 2019

Where do most of the immigrants in the United States come from? ›

Origins of the U.S. immigrant population, 1960–2016
South and East Asia4%28%
Other Latin America4%25%

How many immigrants came to the US in July 2022? ›

The number of unique individuals encountered nationwide in July 2022 was 162,792, a one percent increase in the number of unique enforcement encounters than the prior month. In total, there were 199,976 encounters along the southwest land border in July, a four percent decrease compared to June.


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