As Rio Grande water levels rise, Border Patrol warns of dangers


    Excess water dumped into the Rio Grande from Mexico is already spilling over the banks of the river.

    Many immigrants making the trek to the United States are aware of the dangers the river can pose.

    There are stories about people who fall into the water or that get attacked by an animal, said Lorena Lagos, an immigrant who came to the U.S. from Honduras.

    Lagos and her three children crossed the river safely before being apprehended by Border Patrol, but others cannot say the same.

    What we saw before was a lot of the deaths were happening in the ranchlands. Now, most of the deaths are happening in the canals or in the Rio Grande river itself," said U.S. Border Patrol RGV Sector Deputy Chief Raul Ortiz.

    The increase in drownings can be attributed to criminal organizations pushing migrants into dangerous waters, Ortiz said.

    Border Patrol cannot determine drowning in the river correlate with the water levels.

    However, they are prepared to handle water rescues due in part to recent adjustments.

    "We moved more search and rescue teams closer to the river. We are trying to push our maritime assets into those areas that are more dangerous," Ortiz said.

    The water flow of the Rio Grande is expected to be higher than usual for several weeks in the lower Valley, according to the International Boundary and Water Commission. The Mexican government will release excess water from their reservoirs into the river to prepare for flood season.

    Anytime there is a change in water levels, law enforcement agencies near the river become more vigilant, Border Patrol said.

    "Whether they're on this side of the river, or that side, or wherever, we're going to try and get out there and rescue them," Ortiz said.

    Agents are trained to navigate the current to keep themselves and others safe.

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