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9-year-old migrant girl drowns while trying to cross Rio Grande into U.S.

The unidentified child was found stranded and unconscious on an island on the Mexican side of the river with her mother and 3-year-old brother.

9-year-old migrant girl drowns while trying to cross Rio Grande into U.S.
Cover Image Source: Asylum seekers scramble up the bank of the Rio Grande wafter crossing from Mexico into the United States on March 16, 2021, from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

A 9-year-old migrant girl from Mexico drowned while trying to cross the Rio Grande into the United States with her family, federal officials reported Friday. According to The New York Times, this is the first reported death of a child in a new surge of migrants attempting to cross the Mexican border into the U.S. amid a growing humanitarian crisis. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement Thursday that the unidentified child was found stranded and unconscious on an island on the Mexican side of the river on March 20 with her mother and 3-year-old brother, both of whom were also unresponsive.


"U.S. Border Patrol Marine Unit agents responded to assist three individuals stranded on an island on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande River. Agents found the individuals and immediately began administering first aid while transporting the migrants to shore," the CBP statement said. "Agents attempted life-saving efforts on the second child, a nine-year-old from Mexico, and transferred care to the Eagle Pass Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services." While the agents were able to resuscitate the mother and the younger child, "despite efforts by the Border Patrol Agents and Eagle Pass Emergency Medical Services, the 9-year-old daughter did not regain consciousness and was later pronounced deceased," CBP spokesman Dennis Smith told NBC News in an email.


The rescued mother was Guatemalan, but her children were both Mexican nationals, Smith revealed. "We extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of this small child," Austin L. Skero II — the chief patrol agent for the Border Patrol's Del Rio sector in South Texas — said in the statement. "During these hard times our agents remain resilient, and I am extremely proud of their efforts to preserve human life." CBP added that Del Rio Sector Border Patrol agents have rescued over 500 migrants attempting to illegally cross the border and enter the U.S. since October 1, the start of the current fiscal year.


A total of 82 migrants are said to have died in that period. Last week, on Wednesday night, a Cuban man died while trying to enter the United States by swimming around the border barrier that stretches into the ocean between Tijuana and San Diego. According to Mexican authorities, he is the second migrant to drown in the area in less than two weeks. Migrants crossing the Rio Grande typically move under cover of darkness with many paying hundreds or thousands of dollars to smuggling networks for inflatable rings to float across the river. These rings are often used to hold both an adult and a child.


Elisabet Arreada Lopez and her two young daughters are among the countless migrants who have recently set out from Guatemala with hopes of starting a new life in the United States. Her husband — who was already living in Ohio — hired a smuggler to help them cross the border. "People back home were saying this is the moment to cross," she explained. Lopez and her daughters were intercepted by the U.S. Border Patrol when they reached Texas by floating across the Rio Grande on inner tubes. They were later dropped off at a bus station in Brownsville after processing.


A pair of hurricanes in Guatemala and Honduras last year, the economic downfall caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, and President Joe Biden's compassionate approach to immigration are believed to be the driving force behind the recent surge in people trying to cross the Mexico-U.S. border. The number of families intercepted at the southwestern border jumped from 6,173 in January to 17,773 in February. The numbers have continued to soar despite Biden and his top advisers repeatedly urging migrants not to make the trek.

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