CBP's Initiative to Find Missing Immigrants Turns into Nationwide Program
WESLACO – The search-and-rescue efforts for immigrants lost or left behind by smugglers in the brush has now turned into a nationwide program.
The Missing Migrant Initiative is now known as the Missing Migrant Program. It's now a part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection's daily efforts.
The last time Mary Gomez heard anything about her son's whereabouts was about one month ago. Her last phone call was from her son's coyote.
"He asked the guy to wait for him, but he didn't want to and left him behind," Gomez said in Spanish. "The smuggler says that he became a bit sick, that he started getting asthma and was tired.”
Gomez said she paid a smuggler to cross her 18-year-old son, Waldo, into the U.S. He passed through Brownsville towards the end of last month but according to her, the smuggler left him when he couldn't keep up.
The 18-year-old has yet to be found.
Border Patrol agents trying to track down Gomez's son were only left with a map given to the teen's mother by the smuggler. They said it's not enough to find him.
"In the past, they used to call several parties. They used to call the sheriff's offices, the police departments, the consulates, the non-government organizations or even border patrol itself," said Hugo Vega with the Missing Migrant Program. "But now what we try to do is that we try to branch out."
Vega said CBP's now expanded Missing Migrant Program gives them more options to try to find Gomez and others like him. What started as a small effort, he said, is now a large-scale operation to find missing people.
"It was the rising deaths, particularly in the Brooks County corridor area and that became a challenge...the intel,” he said.
Vegas said people in the country illegally that find themselves lost should consider time their biggest enemy.
"The quicker they call 911 or the quicker they give us refined information, the better chance we have to go out there and rescue those folks," he said.
Gomez said, for now, all she has is faith that she and her son will be reunited.
"If he hears me, I want to tell him that I love him. I know that God will bring him to me," Gomez said.
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