Migrant car chases turn deadly in rural border towns

Border Report

FILE – In this Tuesday, March 2, 2021, file photo, law enforcement officers work at the scene of a deadly crash in Holtville, Calif. Nine migrants in an SUV packed with 25 people that drove through an opening in a border wall suffered major injuries after their vehicle slammed into a tractor-trailer and killed 13 others inside, the California Highway Patrol said Thursday, March 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

(NewsNation) — High-speed car chases through rural towns near the U.S.-Mexico border have become increasingly common, and many have turned fatal over the last year, according to law enforcement.

Earlier this week, a 17-year-old girl and a front seat passenger died near Uvalde, Texas after evading authorities, running a red light and colliding with an 18-wheeler. She was smuggling nine undocumented migrants at the time of her death.

Border issues will be a large part of Friday night’s debate between Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke. NewsNation’s Leland Vittert will host a pre-debate analysis from 6-7 p.m. Then, from 7-8 p.m., the debate will be broadcast nationally by NewsNation, followed by more analysis from Vittert, NewsNation political editor Chris Stirewalt and other experts. If you’re unsure of how to watch NewsNation, you can use the Channel Finder app.

Law enforcement officials say young people have become popular targets for cartels looking to hire drivers.

The recruiting often takes place on social media and promises easy money for those with a driver’s license.

“The videos will show stacks of money with a message that says ‘drivers wanted Houston-area,'” said Lt. Chris Olivarez with the Texas Department of Public Safety.

It’s a trend he says social media companies have been slow to crackdown on.

In some cases, those drivers can make between $1,000 to $3,000 for each migrant they transport, Olivarez said.

If caught, those same drivers face federal charges and potentially years in prison.

Those consequences lead many smugglers to drive off when approached by law enforcement, endangering the lives of the migrants they’re transporting, as well as the general public.

This week an analysis by the Washington Times — a conservative newspaper in D.C. — estimated that the migrant smuggling economy at the southern border now tops $20 billion.

Migrant pursuits have become so frequent that nearby communities have grown accustomed to them.

An investigative report by the Texas House determined that recurring lockdowns — the majority of which resulted from migrant pursuits — in Uvalde may have created a “diminished sense of vigilance” in the lead-up to a mass shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead.

A separate investigation by ProPublica studied human smuggling chases between 2015 to 2018 and determined that Border Patrol agents engaged in more than 500 pursuits, 1 in 3 of which ended in a crash.

Those numbers have likely gone up as the flood of migrants pouring over the southern border continues to rise.

With one month left to go in the fiscal year, encounters at the southern border are up almost 25% from last year’s total — surpassing 2 million apprehensions for the first time ever.

Abbott currently holds an eight-point lead less than 50 days out from Election Day, according to a new Emerson College/The Hill survey released Tuesday.

A separate poll released Wednesday suggests Abbott’s border policies have broad support from the state’s electorate.

According to polling data from the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation (TXHPF) and TEGNA television stations in Texas, a majority of Texas voters support arresting migrants, deploying Texas National Guard and putting Texas Department of Public Safety officers on the border.

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