REYNOSA, Mexico – The recent tragic drowning deaths of two migrants – a father and daughter – in the Rio Grande highlight the danger along the natural border between Mexico and the United States and have migrants on alert on the Mexican side.
“I’m not thinking about crossing (the border) via the river. I’ve already been here about three months,” Emily, a Honduran migrant being housed in the Senda de Vida shelter in the Mexican border city of Reynosa, in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas and across the border from McAllen, Texas, told EFE.
Emily admitted that although she wants to get to the US she’s trying not to despair about being hemmed in for the moment. “It bothers the kids but I’m not thinking about crossing the river. If I was going alone I’d do it, but not with the child,” she said.
Her shelter companion, Guatemalan Arely Garcia, has also been waiting for almost three months for her turn to speak with US immigration officials to request asylum.
She said that the tragic deaths of a Salvadoran man and his 23-month-old daughter who were trying to cross the Rio Grande in the Mexican city of Matamoros – images of which have been seen around the world on social networks and news outlets – have made her reconsider.
“I’ve also got a child with me. I wanted to wait because I want to do it legally. I don’t want to cross the river because I’m thinking about my son, (but) the truth is that the process has been very difficult. We’d like to get on with this, but it’s not happening. We’re hoping that the authorities ... understand and come for us,” she said.
Despite the recommendations of representatives of human rights organizations and the Mexican authorities about the dangers of illegally crossing into the US, some migrants in desperation are risking their lives trying to get across the border.
“The heat’s very bad for trying it. Because of the heat, you get dehydrated sometimes on the way and the water in the puddles is very hot,” said Gustavo Gonzalez Garcia, a Mexican from the central state of Guanajuato who was deported from the US.
He stayed in Reynosa to await getting help from the Tamaulipas Institute for Migrants to return to his village of Empalme Escobedo because – he said – he’s not going to risk his life trying to get to the US illegally.
Fortino Lopez Balcazar, a representative of the Human Rights organization, said that the suggestion that is being made to migrants is that they wait to cross the border legally to avoid the risks of illegally trying to get across the river, given that there is also danger once they get to the US side.
“We’re recommending to them that they not do it, that they do it in legal ways, since currently the US government, although the procedure is slow, has been meeting with migrants to give them political asylum,” the activist said.
During the current US fiscal year, US Border Patrol personnel based in Laredo, Texas, have been monitoring a vast territory along the border with Tamaulipas, one of Mexico’s most violent states.
In that zone, more than 1,600 people have been rescued and the bodies of almost 50 people who have died from dehydration or drowned in the Rio Grande have been recovered during that period.
“What we often see is people who are on some ranch in the desert who don’t have water. That’s the most dangerous thing because many don’t know that they can die very quickly from lack of water,” said Greg Bullock, the head of the Border Patrol Division in the Laredo, Texas, sector.
He said that the Border Patrol has been trying to locate these migrants and give them water, and perhaps also taking them to a hospital because “what we want is to rescue them.”
Since mid-October, thousands of migrants – mostly Central Americans – have been crossing Mexico trying to get to the US, a situation that has sparked a diplomatic clash between Mexico City and Washington.
In recent weeks, after the signing of a migration agreement between Mexico and the US, the Latin American country has implemented better controls and deployed more than 20,000 law enforcement personnel on its southern and northern borders to try and stem, or at least better manage, the northward migrant flow.