People Crossing Border Illegally Brave the Cold into US
WESLACO – The recent cold weather has been proven deadly for some of those crossing into the U.S. illegally.
For the Rio Grande Valley sector, Border Patrol reported nine deaths during the recent cold snap.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS spoke to a man who recently made the journey from Central America during the cold weather.
During winter rescues, Border Patrol says many of the people they come across are not prepared for the cold.
Many wearing the same clothing they wore when they first left their home country, where the conditions are much warmer.
Jose Galdamez, a Honduran national, traveled more than 1500 miles in 15 days to get the U.S. with only what he could carry on his back.
He left Honduras for a better life.
“I just brought three changes of clothes,” Galdamez said. “I would put my clothes on my daughter to keep her warm. I would take my own jacket off and put it on her.”
The cold proved to be one of the biggest obstacles he faced. He says many in his group were like him.
“We all came the same way,” he said.
Some travelers wear only a few layers of clothing and no jackets. Border Patrol says it’s common among those they recently rescued.
“These immigrants are very ill prepared to endure such a treacherous journey,” said Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Robert Rodriguez.
Rodriguez said the cold can be just as deadly as the heat here in the Valley.
“They may not think ahead so much to say, you know what I need to have a certain amount of clothing on in order to endure this journey,” he said.
In cases like the nine people that died in the recent cold weather, Rodriguez says they are often abandoned by their smugglers before their deaths.
“These smugglers just see them as a commodity so as their smuggling them they don't tell them, hey you need to get additional clothing, maybe get a jacket,” Rodriguez said.
Galdamez, like many in his situation, says he left his home with only what he could carry, unprepared for the bitter journey.
Rodriguez says they have agents who specialize in rescues in harsh conditions called Border Patrol Search, Trauma and Rescue.
He said they are always on standby, especially during this cold month.
Border Patrol believes the nine deaths were caused by hypothermia.
One body was taken to the medical examiner to determine the cause of death; the others were taken to funeral homes to be identified.