Posted: Oct 19, 2012 6:42 PM
Updated: Oct 19, 2012 7:03 PM
WESLACO - Illegal entry into the United States is the only option for many who seek to escape poverty and violence, experts said.
Immigrants put their money, trust and ultimately their lives in the hands of human smugglers. Some of those smugglers are not old enough to hold a driver's license.
One of those smugglers is accused of crashing a van loaded with 17 illegal immigrants near Palmview. Life ended for nine of those immigrants.
"These smugglers are ruthless people," Border Patrol Spokesman Henry Mendiola said.
Mendiola is familiar with the carnage left behind by some of the human smugglers.
"These people reconsider, but by that time it's too late," he said.
The lucky ones to walk away from a wreck may return home to nothing.
"They sold every last goat, every piece of cattle they had, their house, their property," Mendiola said.
Meredith Linsky said she knows the risks immigrants are willing to take. She is an immigration attorney in Harlingen.
"There's no way to come legally," she said.
Linsky said most immigrants can't apply to come legally to the United States.
"It's clearly not an option," Linsky said.
Those that are eligible must fight through government red tape.
"That can take over 10 years," she said. Sometimes twice as long if the applicant doesn't have a spouse, young child or parent who already is a United States citizen.
Mexican nationals have to wait up to 20 years.
People from violent countries in Central America can't wait decades when their days may already be numbered.
"The gangs are going to kill me," a man said after Border Patrol arrested him earlier this year at a stash house.
"They said if I didn't get them money, they would decapitate me," he said.
"They believe that if they stay in their country ... it's a sure thing they're going to be harmed. They're going to be killed," Linsky said.
She said that is the reason they take the risk of getting in to a van with a smuggler who may not know how to drive. It's not because they want to; its because they have to.
Immigrants caught trying to enter the United States illegally are banned from applying to come here legally. Linsky said that will not deter anyone who is not eligible to apply in the first place.