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Migrant woman and 3 children found dead in Rio Grande in Texas

Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

HOUSTON -- The FBI is investigating the deaths of what appeared to be a migrant woman and three children, whose bodies were found near the Rio Grande in South Texas, amid a surge in migrant families.

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents found the bodies late Sunday in the Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area, federal land near the town of Mission. It's a remote, wooded area near Anzalduas Park frequented by smugglers, authorities said.

The woman was about 20 years old, traveling with an infant and two toddlers, according to a tweet from Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra and a statement released by Roseanne Hughes, a spokeswoman for the FBI San Antonio office, which is investigating.

"It's an incredibly heartbreaking situation, which seems to happen far too often," Hughes said.

The bodies had not been identified early Monday, she said. They appeared to be migrants who suffered dehydration and heat exposure, with no signs of foul play, but autopsies were expected to determine how they died, the FBI said.

Rene Gonzalez, chief deputy constable for a Hidalgo justice of the peace, said the area where the bodies were found has been a busy crossing point this year. "It was pretty bad," he said, describing migrant traffic in the area as "hot and heavy."

The area is near riverfront Anzalduas Park, known for illicit crossings and where President Trump stopped during a January visit to promote his border wall, joined by Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn. Wall construction started in surrounding Hidalgo County but stalled due to legal challenges.


Migrant deaths have continued along the river this year as the number crossing illegally has surged to nearly 600,000, more than half of them families. The influx has overwhelmed Border Patrol agents, whose leaders have said they are stretched thin. In addition, providing shelter for the increased number of migrants has reached a tipping point. In some cases, there are 15,000 migrants housed in spaces designed for 4,000. The Trump administration has been erecting massive emergency tent shelters. The crunch is particularly tough in South Texas, the busiest crossings for migrant families, especially the Rio Grande Valley and El Paso.

Earlier this month, authorities in El Paso recovered seven bodies, including one of a girl, from flooded canals that migrants are known to cross. Last month, Border Patrol agents in Eagle Pass, Texas, found the body of a 10-month-old baby in the river after a raft that he and his family were attempting to cross in overturned. Five of the nine migrants survived.

Last year, Border Patrol responded to 4,300 emergencies along the U.S.-Mexico border, including 283 deaths, down from a high of 492 in 2005, including bodies found in the river, in ranches to the north and in western deserts.

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