U.S. Border Patrol agents on Sunday found the bodies of three children and a 20-year-old woman near the Rio Grande in southern Texas, an area where migrants often cross the border without documents and where drug trafficking is common.
Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra confirmed the incident in a tweet on Sunday evening, stating that the deceased included two infants and a toddler. The cause of their deaths is currently under investigation.
BREAKING NEWS: Deputies are on scene by the river SE of the Anzalduas Park in Las Paloma Wildlife Management Area where Border Patrol agents located 4 deceased bodies. Bodies appear to be 2 infants, a toddler and 20yoa female. Deputies are awaiting FBI agents who will be leading. pic.twitter.com/2qPCYDjZBu
— Sheriff Eddie Guerra (@SheriffGuerra) June 24, 2019
According to The Monitor, “This location is believed to be an area known locally as El Rincón del Diablo, or the Devil’s Corner, a large swath of land outside of Mission and near Granjeno, oft-used by smugglers due to its proximity to Mexico.”
While the circumstances around the deaths are still unknown, deaths like these could become more common as the United States and Mexico both ramp up immigration enforcement at the border.
Under the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy, migrants — who are legally allowed to apply for asylum in the United States — will no longer be held in custody by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and ultimately transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Instead, they will be issued a 45-day notice to appear before a judge in immigration court. They can visit the United States for court hearings, but will have to live in Mexico during the interim.
According to Mexican officials, as of June 19, nearly 14,000 asylum seekers from Central America had been returned to Mexico under the policy.
The result has been a humanitarian catastrophe, as vulnerable migrants like pregnant women and LGBTQ asylum seekers are held in overcrowded shelters without medical care, in dangerous border towns like Juarez and Tijuana. In some cases, asylum seekers who are sent to Mexico are raped or murdered, and there are reports of families being separated.
Amid threats of tariffs from the Trump administration, Mexico, too, has ramped up its immigration enforcement. Just last week, violent apprehensions by Mexican police resulted in the death of a young Salvadoran woman and the wounding of two men.
Given the crackdowns both in the United States and in Mexico, desperate migrants, many of whom are fleeing violence, often rely on the help of smugglers to get them into the United States. In fact, President Donald Trump’s harsh immigration policies have bolstered the smuggling trade. As USA TODAY reported in February, independent smugglers in the Rio Grande Valley are taking advantage of migrants’ desperation by charging tens of thousands of dollars to sneak them into the country.