FALFURRIAS, Texas (AP) - A South Texas sheriff struggling to keep up with the demands of helping injured, lost and distressed immigrants slogging through his hot turf has partnered with a nonprofit to patrol the border.
The Brooks County Sheriff’s Office will be working with Texas Border Rescue to halve response times to immigrants in distress, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported Saturday (https://bit.ly/1lvf4Ry). The partnership will add 10 people to a search-and-rescue crew already bolstered by 15 new volunteer deputy sheriffs. This doubles the number of people patrolling the vast terrain that has seen an influx of immigrants, especially unaccompanied minors, wandering through.
“We have mostly relied on U.S. Border Patrol agents to respond to these calls,” said Chief Deputy Urbino “Benny” Martinez. “They are busy, so these people in crisis are having to wait between 45 minutes to an hour before they get any help.”
As deaths have increased in the area, the Border Patrol has installed four help stations in Brooks County ranches. Each site has a 5-gallong jug of water and a “beacon” so a distressed migrant can call for help. Still, 90 percent of emergency calls to the sheriff’s office are made using a cellphone, Martinez said.
The partnership will allow the sheriff’s office to have more people spread out across the area and closer to people who could be in danger, he said.
Eduardo Canales, director of the South Texas Human Rights Center, which installs and maintains water rescue stations throughout South Texas, said the partnership is overdue.
More than 300 people died crossing through Brooks County between 2011 to 2013, representing more than 50 percent of the deaths in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. And the numbers of unaccompanied minors and women is reaching record levels this year.
“Migration is down over the decade but deaths are increasing,” Canales said.
Information from: Corpus Christi Caller-Times, https://www.caller.com
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