Officials: Migrants using drains to sneak under US border


SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Officials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection say smugglers are pushing large groups of migrants to take a potentially deadly journey through massive drains that run under the U.S.-Mexico border.

Justin De la Torre, agent in charge for the Border Patrol’s Imperial Beach Station in San Diego, says they have seen an increase in large gatherings of migrants being dropped along the border since October.

He said these groups often attempt to cross into the country illegally using storm drains, which help water flow from one side of the border to the other.

“Quite frankly, when they bring in large groups at one time, it drains our resources so now our agents are spread thin and it leaves the border a bit more vulnerable in that period of time,” De la Torre said.

According to CBP, agents have encountered large groups from Brazil, Venezuela and Portugal using the drains to get across the border. One group from Brazil included 86 men, women and children, while another group had 93 people, officials said.

Drains between San Diego and Tijuana are used by smugglers as a path for undocumented migrants.
(Salvador Rivera/Border Report)

De la Torre said people traveling through the storm drains face serious risks, including severe injury, drowning and falling from steep terrain.

“Just this year alone, we’ve had 12 fatalities that we know of in this area of migrants being trafficked and smuggled into the area,” he said. “The Border Patrol’s job is to keep people safe, keep American people safe, our agents safe and to keep the migrants safe, as well. … The smugglers, they don’t have that goal; all they care about is making money.”

De la Torre says the gates are kept closed when it’s not raining, but agents must open them when storms arrive as a way to maintain the water’s natural flow from Mexico into the U.S.

“On the runoff systems, we have grates and have put in bars to keep people from coming through, however, the smugglers go down there with power tools and cut through those bars and facilitate illegal entry for the migrants.”

According to CBP figures, the number of migrants taken into custody along the southern border has gone down for the third consecutive month since a sharp increase this summer.

CBP is reporting more than 164,000 apprehensions along the entire U.S.-Mexico border in October, which is a 23 percent drop from July.

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