Number of dead migrants surges at border for the first time in decades

Texas sheriff says he keeps a CORPSE TROLLEY in his truck after number of dead migrants found along the border in 2021 so far surges to 383 – the highest in a decade

  • The number of migrants crossing the border with Mexico has surged this year, with unusual levels of migration not seen in more than two decades
  • Through July, Border Patrol officials found 383 dead migrants, the highest toll in nearly a decade
  • So far, the number of dead migrants this year far surpasses the 253 recovered in 2020 
  • Sheriff Oscar E. Carrillo alone has found the bodies of 19 migrants this year, many who died because of the sweltering summer heat
  • He no longer sends requests for more bulletproof vests or firearms, instead he asks for more body bags as more and more bodies of migrants are found dead

By Alastair Talbot For Dailymail.Com

Published: 23:07, 24 August 2021 | Updated: 23:25, 24 August 2021

As the number of migrants crossing the Mexico-U.S. border hits record breaking numbers this year, so too, has the number of dead immigrants, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

As of July, Border Patrol officials have found 383 dead migrants in 2021, the highest total in a decade, and already far surpassing the 253 recovered last year.

The real figures could be even higher as some bodies aren’t discovered for years, while Border Patrol’s figures do not include bodies found by other law enforcement agencies, such as local sheriff’s offices.

Sheriff Oscar E.

Carrillo, serving Culbertson County in West Texas, has personally found the bodies of 19 migrants this year, many who died due the baking summer heat, up by two from the total of corpses he found in 2020. 

Pictured: Culberson County Sheriff Oscar Carrillo shows photos of the work his office does in answering calls involving undocumented migrants crossing the border from Mexico into the United States through Culberson County

This year, he decided to carry a new piece of gear with him at all times: a corpse trolley.

‘It’s so we don’t have to hand carry the remains anymore,’ Sheriff Carrillo, 56, said as  he described the amount of dead migrants turning up on his watch. 

‘I used to request regular stuff like bulletproof vests,’ he added. ‘Now I’m asking for more body bags.’

In addition to often finding dead corpses in the Chihuahuan Desert, his other tasks include fighting crime on a daily basis, such as burglaries and cattle thefts, with just ten deputies on watch in Culberson County, which contains a population of a little more than 2,000 people.

Although it is located in the middle of the desert, surrounded by mountainous terrain and shrublands, the county is more than three times the size of Rhode Island.

Number of dead migrants surges at border for the first time in decades

Forensic technicians and members of the Mexican National Guard carry the body of Armando Tejeda, a Honduran migrant who died when he tried to cross the border into the U.S. from Mexico, seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico 

In the past, political leaders, such as Texas Governor Greg Abbott and former President Donald J. Trump, have argued that more migrants are taking the dauting risk of crossing the border.

President Biden disagreed and one of the first things he did after taking office was to relax some of Trump’s strictest immigration policies.  

He also promised to put an end to Title 42 while running for office, but recently announced he was going to keep it in place as the contagious ‘Delta’ variant continues to spread nationwide.  

To add to that, the crisis at the southern border continues to surge past unprecedented levels as concerns over the influx of unaccompanied minors and others are compounded by COVID-19 fears.

The number of children under age 18 apprehended at the border was 834 on August 5, according to Health and Human Services. The 30-day average is just 512.

Just 612 children in HHS custody were released to parents and guardians, meaning the total number of migrant children held by the US increased by more than 200.  

The number of children traveling alone who were picked up at the border reached an all-time high of more than 19,000 in July, according to preliminary numbers shared with the Associated Press by David Shahoulian, assistant secretary for border and immigration policy at DHS.

It’s just a sign of a greater influx – 210,000 migrants crossed into the US along the southern border in July.

Number of dead migrants surges at border for the first time in decades

A new report says encounters at the border reached 210,000 in July alone

Number of dead migrants surges at border for the first time in decades

The numbers from CBP show more migrants crossing in 2021 than recent years

It’s the highest one-month total in 21 years, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

More than 188,000 migrants were encountered by law enforcement in June – compared to 33,000 in June 2020. 

Drugs gangs and hunger in Central America are factors that some would lay the blame on for the recent surge, or the extreme weather caused by climate change.

While all these factors could be interconnected, there is another component to take into consideration: the border wall.   

The Trump administration’s biggest projecting concerning the southern border has made some migrants think they could cross in exceptionally prohibited areas where there is no wall, like remote stretches around Culberson County.

Sheriff Carrillo, who has been involved in law enforcement for 21 years, said he tries to avoid all the on-going political debate around immigration.

Number of dead migrants surges at border for the first time in decades

A U-Haul moving van was discovered on June 15 after it exited Interstate 10 and parked behind an open lot behind the McDonalds in Van Horn. Border Patrol found it to be carrying more than 30 undocumented immigrants, who were locked in the back of the truck

Number of dead migrants surges at border for the first time in decades

The immigrants were in a serious state of dehydration. All occupants were transported to the Culberson County hospital

Number of dead migrants surges at border for the first time in decades

Sheriff Carrillo advised a driver was taken into custody and hopes the federal prosecutors criminally charge the driver

‘I’ve got a job to do,’ the sheriff, who grew up in El Paso, told the New York Times in an interview conducted entirely in Spanglish, the hybrid language established along much of the border. 

He worked in the Texas oil fields before the collapse on oil prices in the 1980s.

‘I told myself I need something that’s going to be around,’ he said, ‘like law enforcement or funeral work.’

Now, as the number of dead migrants at the border increases, Sheriff Carrillo finds himself in an uneasily doing both simultaneously. 

According to him, most of the migrants attempting to cross the border come from three of Central America’s poorest countries: Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, although the sheriff has also identified bodies of Ecuadoreans and Mexicans.

Contrary to those seeking asylum at other cross-border locations, those making the clandestine journey in this part of West Texas are what border officials call ‘Title 42s,’ referring to a program executed by the Trump administration that allows authorities to expulse people recently coming from a country where a communicable disease was present. 

Number of dead migrants surges at border for the first time in decades

Pictured: Culberson Deputies working in the area were alerted of the presence of migrants and rescued them from the 100 degree temperatures, providing them with water and meals-ready-to eat. Border Patrol were notified and will assume custody.

After being sent to the south of the border, Mexico, many of the migrants try to ride their luck once more , sometimes in extraordinarily isolated areas in the Chihuahuan Desert. 

In July, more than 200,000 migrants were arrested along the border, which is a 13 percent increase from June and the second-highest number on record, according to Border Patrol figures. 

More than a quarter of those who had been arrested last month had been previously detained.

The spiking number of migrant deaths isn’t only happening in Texas though as it is also happening in neighboring border states.

In the first half of this year, remains of 127 migrants were discovered in Arizona, up from 96 in the same period of last year according to Humane Borders, a group focusing on human rights and that documents migrant deaths using data from the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner in Tucson.

Number of dead migrants surges at border for the first time in decades

A truck pulling a horse trailer was stopped south of Van Horn Texas along Texas Highway 90 by Border Agents and discovered it contained more than horses on June 18

Number of dead migrants surges at border for the first time in decades

An estimated 40 undocumented persons were hidden in the trailer along with some narcotics

Number of dead migrants surges at border for the first time in decades

An estimated 40 undocumented persons were hidden in the trailer along with some narcotics. All persons including the driver were taken into custody with out incident and pending an investigation

From October until July, 69 bodies of migrants were found in the Rio Grand Valley in South Texas, in comparison with 57 over the same period a year earlier, according to Border Patrol figures. 

The agency’s Del Rio sector in Val Verde County, located in southwestern Texas had an even bigger leap, to 71 bodies from 34.

Sheriff Carrillo explains that the majority of causes of migrants’ deaths are from heatstroke or dehydration, as they are often left behind by smugglers trying to bring in groups of border-crossers.

However, there are many ways to die in the desert, according to the sheriff.

Once in late July of this year, he was called on duty at around 3a.m. after an Ecuadorian migrant had been ran over by an eighteen-wheel when she tried to cross Interstate 10 close to Van Horn, the county’s biggest city. 

He said that mainly teeth and a couple of body parts had been retrieved, reviewing photos of the gruesome crash. 

‘No quedo mas nada,’ he added, translating to ‘nothing else was left.’

In another gruesome incident, he was called to the scene on a cattle ranch which had an empty water tank, where he happened to have found a migrant who had hanged himself on a mesquite tree.

Number of dead migrants surges at border for the first time in decades

Sheriff Oscar Carrillo (left) with former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (right)

‘He made it all this way only to find the tank empty,’ the sheriff said. ‘What would have been going on in his mind at that point?’

For a while, these grim scenes seemed to have haunted Sheriff Carrillo as he stared at the pile of manila envelopes on his desk. 

Each envelope included letters detailing the death of a migrant in his county this year, according to him.

Isolated counties, such as Culberson, cannot afford its own medical examiner, so  authorities drive the bodies to El Paso, approximately 160 miles west, where they are charged a hefty £3,500 fee for each autopsy.

In the meantime, Sheriff Carrillo’s jail is filled up with smugglers to a point of turning away those brought over to him by state troopers or National Guard personnel who are part of Gov Abbott’s immigration crackdown.

‘When someone shows up with a criminal, I’m not taking them,’ Sheriff Carrillo said. ‘There’s no bed space anymore.’

When he initially joined the police force, Sheriff Carrillo had never thought he would see the day when he would have to turn away criminals.    

He said he ‘knew his aim of making smugglers accountable’ didn’t solely depend on his capabilities as a Sheriff.

However, he is hoping to bring some form of justice to the families of dead migrants with some form of closure.

Number of dead migrants surges at border for the first time in decades

A portrait of U.S. President Donald Trump hangs over empty frames at the U.S.

Border Patrol office on November 22, 2017 in Van Horn, Texas

Many of the body parts of those dead migrant remain unidentified, so he thought about posting details about some cases on his personal Facebook page. 

People from Central and South America reach out to him, desperate to find out what happened to their loved ones.

In one case, a woman in California asked if he had found the body of her brother, who could be identifiable with an owl tattoo on his leg and often wearing a Chicago White Sox cap. 

Using the detailed bit of information, the sheriff was able to confirm that the remains of a migrant found in June were those of a 28-year-old man from the Mexican state of Veracruz — the woman’s brother, according to the New York Times.

‘We were able to get the body back to the familia,’ the sheriff said. ‘At least we could do that for them.’

On Sheriff Carrillo’s desk, near the manila envelopes that hold information about the bodies he sends for examination to El Paso, are pleas for help from the consulates of Central American countries to identify migrants who have gone missing while trying to cross the border.

‘These people are out there somewhere,’ he said. ‘I hope that someday we’ll find them.’