EDINBURG, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – U.S. Customs & Border Protection says more than 20 people have lost their lives during smuggling attempts in August 2021.

The agency said more than 100 migrants discovered deceased this fiscal year in the Rio Grande Valley, were on rugged ranch lands in south Texas.

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And as for migrants who don’t die while trying to make it surreptitiously over the Texas-Mexico border, those numbers are in the hundreds of thousands, according to the agency. Rio Grande Valley Sector Border Patrol agents said they have encountered more than 412,000 migrants this year.

Agents have said they are working diligently to mitigate migrant deaths. This fiscal year, agents have performed nearly 1,000 rescues, as 911 calls from lost individuals have become a daily occurrence.

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Migrants are exposed to dangers even before setting foot on U.S. soil, according officials. In the Rio Grande Valley, a common method of illegal entry is via inflatable raft. Smugglers will overfill rafts, many times leading to the possibility of the vessel capsizing. Another ongoing threat remains to be heat-related illnesses, many of which happen after migrants are abandoned by smugglers. Checkpoint agents also remain vigilant for smuggling loads involving tractor trailers as smugglers use holding capacities of trailers to maximize their profits, dangerously filling 50 to 100 people in non-ventilated containers for hours at a time. Also, law enforcement partners said they frequently observe the reckless behavior of smugglers attempting to evade arrest while jeopardizing the lives of those they smuggle.

Distressed migrants abandoned by smugglers are left in desolate areas when they are unable to keep up with the rest of the group. Border agents often receive phone calls from family members pleading for them to search specific areas for their loved ones after being notified the person was left behind by the foot guide. Regrettably, there are instances when loved ones find help and return with assistance only to find their loved one has succumbed to the elements. Brooks and Kennedy Counties are approximately a 70-mile hike from the border and is primarily vast, desolate ranch lands. The area is notorious for migrant deaths, especially during summer months, as smugglers attempt circumventing the checkpoint on foot. Last week alone, 10 deceased migrants were discovered on the ranch lands, according to officials.

To address the increase in the number of lost migrants requiring rescue in desolate ranch lands, several rescue beacons were deployed throughout Rio Grande Valley Sector. The rescue beacons were deployed in areas that will have the greatest impact on rescue efforts. Rescue beacons are equipped with lights and signage, making it visible to lost and distressed subjects from a distance. Currently, 24 rescue beacons are deployed throughout the Rio Grande Valley Sector. By the end of the fiscal year, RGV will have 48 rescue beacons deployed, intended to save lives.

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CBSDFW.com Staff