Migrants Drown in Rio Grande Amid Surge in Crossings at the Southern Border

Migrants drowned trying to swim across the Rio Grande river after U.S. Border Patrol agents made several arrests during an alleged human smuggling attempt into Texas.

According to the U.S. Border Patrol Laredo Sector (BPLS), two migrants died while attempting to flee the bust near Carlton Road on Wednesday afternoon.

The BPLS said in a release: "Agents witnessed several individuals exit a vehicle and attempt to swim across the Rio Grande river into Mexico.

"Several individuals were apprehended in the vehicle at encounter. Some of the individuals entered the river safely and made it to the Mexican riverbanks. One individual was rescued by a local fisherman and rendered first aid by agents.

"Two individuals succumbed to the dangerous currents of the Rio Grande river and perished. The incident remains under investigation."

The fisherman, Jesus Vargas, shared a video of the migrants attempting to cross the river with Fox San Antonio and could be heard shouting as he recorded the tragedy on his phone.

Vargas could be heard shouting at BPLS officials: "You don't have life jackets? They're drowning these guys. The girl didn't come up no more. Call the boat, man, the girl didn't come out no more."

He later told Fox San Antonio: "Those people drowned. That thing is sad for me, for these people here."

Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar, who is also Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar's brother, said immigration reform was needed to avoid more people risking their lives by entering the country illegally.

He told the network: "We need to have proper protocols to come in and apply instead of coming in through the river doing it the way they are."

The tragedy comes amid a growing crisis at the border as a surge of unaccompanied children and families attempted to cross into the U.S.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials announced in a March 10 report that its border agents had tracked 10,441 migrants trying to enter the country in February.

Border patrol agents made several arrests before two migrants drowned in the Rio Grande. This photo shows a US Border Patrol patch on a border agent's uniform in McAllen, Texas, on January 15, 2019. SUZANNE CORDEIRO / Contributor/Getty

According to the CBP, the total "represented a 28 percent increase over January 2021." It said the number of crossing attempts had been on the rise since April 2020 due to "ongoing violence, natural disasters, food insecurity and poverty in the Northern Triangle countries of Central America."

CBP senior official performing the duties of the commissioner, Troy Miller, said in the report: "The United States is continuing to strictly enforce our existing immigration laws and border security measures.

"Those who attempt to cross the border without going through ports of entry should understand that they are putting themselves and their families in danger, especially during the pandemic.

"Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the border is not open, and the vast majority of people are being returned under Title 42. Do not believe smugglers or others claiming otherwise."

The graphic below provided by Statista shows the majority of those apprehended at the southern border between 2007-2021 have been from Mexico. But, in 2019, more people from countries other than Mexico were arrested in what was a significant increase that year.

Apprehensions signal antoerh busy year at border
Hundreds of thousands of people have been apprehended trying to cross the border. Newsweek/ Statista

Republican lawmakers have attacked President Joe Biden's administration over the surge in attempted border crossings in recent months.

The Biden administration and Democrats need to stop denying the humanitarian crisis at our southern border.#SecureTheBorder

— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) March 10, 2021
Ted Cruz has hit out at the Biden administration over the southern border crisis.

On March 9, Texas Senator Ted Cruz hit out at the president on Twitter where he said: "The Biden administration and Democrats need to stop denying the humanitarian crisis at our southern border. #SecureTheBorder."

Democrats have responded by claiming it is too early to judge whether the current migrant crisis is linked directly to the Biden presidency.

Representative Vincente Gonzalez of Texas earlier told Newsweek: "We're less than 90 days in, it's too early to place blame. You talk to me in another three months, if this is still going on, I'm going to be hammering people."

Newsweek has contacted the BPLS for comment.