Migrants crossing into the U.S. illegally now have a new worry: they’re being mugged or sexually assaulted as soon as they cross the Rio Grande.
Rape and robbery have long been a part of migrants’ journey through Mexico, but it’s been relatively less common on the U.S. side.
Now, agents in the Rio Grande Valley area of Texas said they’re suddenly hearing those reports from migrants.
In September, more than 30 migrants across five separate incidents reported being approached by bandits with knives or bats and being ordered to hand over their money and other belongings. They were set free after they turned over whatever they had.
The Border Patrol said it has deployed more personnel to the area to try to catch the bandits.
Agents also said they’re getting more stories of sexual assault from migrants, including on the U.S. side of the border.
They’re happening at stash houses, where migrants are kept holed up before smugglers take them deeper into the U.S., or out in the field, as guides lead them into the country and around Border Patrol checkpoints.
“Some victims reported the sexual assault was perpetrated by their own foot guide, others reported by individuals encountered in the brush after getting lost or separated from their group,” the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley said in a statement describing the new level of violence.
The Border Patrol said the dangers are another reason for migrants not to attempt the illegal journey to the U.S.
Dangers and violence during the trip through Mexico have long been a worry for migrants.
The chance of rape is so real that some women and girls report that they start birth control before the trip, or bring the morning-after pill with them.