Border Patrol agents carry out cold weather rescue in Sierra Blanca

SIERRA BLANCA — On the morning of January 5, Border Patrol agents recovered 25 undocumented migrants, the victims of a presumed human smuggling operation, from a locked trailer “with no means of escape and no heat,” Customs and Border Protection reported in a press release. “They’re a real concern for us,” spokesman Greg Davis said of the high incidence of cold weather rescues throughout the Big Bend Sector’s harsh winters. 

“There have been significant rescues as of late by our agents where individuals were left in hazardous conditions and required immediate medical attention,” said Big Bend Sector Chief Patrol Agent Sean L. McGoffin. “Transnational criminal organizations have no concern for humanity, they continually place lives in danger.”

The agency has shifted some of its resources in recent years toward rescue and recovery of migrants, who are often unprepared for the harsh, mountainous terrain on this side of the border. As the Big Bend Sentinel previously reported, Customs and Border Protection rolled out a series of 30 rescue beacons to be located in remote reaches of the Big Bend Sector in 2021.

The brightly-colored beacons have a flashing light to guide migrants at night and a mirror that reflects light during the day. When activated, the beacons alert 911 that assistance is requested. Border Patrol and local emergency services respond when the beacons are activated, but Big Bend Sector Border Patrol recognizes the limitations of local medical care. “Not every agent is also an EMT, but we do try to send EMT-trained agents to respond to these types of events,” Davis said. “They triage patients all the time and sometimes make a life-saving call.” 

Davis explained that the agency always puts medical care first before initiating the process by which undocumented migrants are processed for expulsion from the U.S. “Life and limb, that is our main priority,” he said. “We will take care of the law enforcement and immigration aspect later.”