54 migrants rescued from Rio Grande as border deaths continue to rise

54 migrants rescued from Rio Grande as border deaths continue to rise

An unprecedented 54 migrants were rescued from a section of the Rio Grande River between Texas and New Mexico on Tuesday, according to officials.

The Sunland Park, New Mexico, fire department got a call on Tuesday about a group of people in the Rio Grande, at a section near El Paso, Texas, and the Mexican state of Chihuahua, where multiple migrants have died crossing the border in recent weeks.

First responders including 30 divers, four local fire departments, El Paso County Search and Rescue, and the Border Patrol assisted with the rescue.

Six of the migrants reportedly had hypothermia from being in the water too long, and three were taken to local hospitals in non-critical condition.

“The smugglers from the south side, from Mexico, are telling the migrants to hide in the water,” Daniel Medrano of Sunland Park Fire told KTSM. “Some of these migrants had been in the water for three or four hours, so they had been in the water for quite a while.”

All of those rescued from the river were reportedly adults.

The stretch of border is a particularly deadly one. Earlier this month, four migrants were found dead of heat stroke, and another three were found dead in late June. An estimated 20 people died crossing the border in the area over the last month, according to the El Paso Times.

In the El Paso border sector, which includes the location of the rescue, migrant deaths more than doubled between 2022 and 2023, a problem only expected to grow as extreme heat continues and the Biden administration tightens access to legal asylum.

Between October 1 2023 and the end of June, more than 100 migrants died in the sector, almost twice the number of deaths compared with the same period last year, according to Border Report.

“Since we saw the (Biden) executive order and since we saw the application of asylum getting much harder, we’ve been talking about this. We’ve been saying that migrants were going to take alternate dangerous routes to reach safety in the U.S.” Alan Lizarraga, spokesman for El Paso-based Border Network for Human Rights, told the outlet.

Last month, the Biden administration issued a rule allowing the president to shut down the border to legal asylum-seekers between ports of entry if average daily border crossings top 2,500.

As The Independent has reported, US officials of both parties have long known that tightening border security at ports of entry drives migrants toward remote and deadly areas along the sprawling, mostly desert border between the US and Mexico.

In 1994, the Clinton administration Border Patrol adopted the strategy of “prevention through deterrence", which tightened security at common border crossings like Tijuana and El Paso to push migrants into the backcountry and ideally put them in “mortal danger”.