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Why Border Patrol is doing more to rescue and identify missing migrants

Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

FALFURRIAS, Texas — A U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent scrutinized video of a dying migrant on her cellphone, trying to match the background to the ranch she was searching for his body last month.

"Can I see the picture real quick, the background?" another agent asked.

Agent Nancy Balogh held out her phone. In the two minutes of video, 25-year-old Yoel Nieto Valladares lay on the sandy ground, shirtless and sweating, jeans cinched with a rectangular metal belt buckle. Nieto was barely able to sip from a Coke as another man fanned him with a black cap. The dying man's hands twitched, a tattoo of his father and younger brother's initials visible on his arm. His eyes rolled.

"How do you feel, guy? Hey, how do you feel?" the man filming asked, panning to show a dozen others dressed all in black, the color favored by smugglers working at night.

Nieto shushed him, smiling.

"This is bad, he's delirious," said the man filming.

 

The dying man groaned.

Moments later, in a second minutelong video, Nieto's black polo shirt was on and his arms lay atop it, limp. His eyes were open, staring.

A smuggler had sent the videos to Nieto's family with GPS coordinates. "I really hope we find him," Balogh said.

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