Illegal Migrant Drowns in Rio Grande During Chase in El Paso


EL PASO – A Border Patrol agent assigned to the El Paso U.S. Border Patrol Station was working line watch duties three weeks ago when he observed four suspected illegal migrants running north from the Rio Grande River towards the International Border Barrier, approximately one and a quarter miles east of the Paso Del Norte Port of Entry in El Paso. 

The International Border Barrier is situated between the U.S./Mexico international border and the American Canal. The Border Patrol agent drove his U.S. Border Patrol marked vehicle on the levee road towards the location from the south side of the barrier and saw two individuals running back south towards the Rio Grande River.

The agent ran through the open barrier gate, and observed one of the individuals struggling in the canal due to the strength of the current. The agent immediately requested assistance from the El Paso Fire Department and broadcasted a request for a rescue rope via radio communications to the Border Patrol agents near the location.

The nearest U.S. Border Patrol water rescue equipment box was inaccessible to the agent due to the box being situated on the north side of the canal and approximately a tenth of a mile away from the agent’s location. The Border Patrol agent briefly searched for the second individual in the water, but he did not see the second individual. The agent continued to walk along the edge of the canal, monitoring the individual in the water until additional agents arrived. 

Within approximately four minutes of the radio communication requesting assistance, two additional agents arrived at the location and met with the Border Patrol agent who was monitoring the individual in the water. The individual, later identified as a male citizen of Mexico, was floating face down in the canal, continuing to be swept away by the current.

Agents deployed their rescue ropes but were unsuccessful in retrieving the man. A short time later, El Paso Fire Department arrived and entered the canal with the assistance of the agents. El Paso Fire Department pulled the man out of the canal and initiated CPR with the assistance of a certified Emergency Medical Technician Border Patrol agent. El Paso Fire Department Rescue Five EMS arrived at the location and took over life saving measures on the man. 

El Paso Fire Department Rescue Five EMS personnel determined the man required further medical care and transported him to the University Medical Center in El Paso. The man was admitted into the medical center and was moved into the intensive care unit while under U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s hospital watch.

On June 9, the man was processed in accordance with CBP guidelines and released from CBP custody but remained at University Medical Center. Later that day, the man succumbed to his ailments and was declared deceased by medical center personnel. 

The El Paso County Office of the Medical Examiner and CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility are reviewing this incident. The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General was also notified.

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