Migrants along the Rio Grande
A migrant group walks along the Rio Grande, near Eagle Pass, Texas, while looking for a gap in barbed-wire fencing. AFP

Following the unusually large rescue of migrants from the Rio Grande by firefighters from Texas and New Mexico, immigration advocates are sounding alarms about the dangers of beefed up deterrence measures by state and federal governments.

Alan Lizarraga, a spokesman for the Border Network for Human Rights, told Border Report that they are "very concerned about the rising trend of migrant rescues and migrant deaths in El Paso." "The deterrence policies we have at the border right now continue to push migrants to take very dangerous routes," Lizarraga added.

54 migrants were pulled out of a stretch of the river on Tuesday evening, some of them with hypothermia. They were taken to receive medical treatment but none were in critical condition, said Sunland Park Fire Chief Daniel Medrano.

"I have a message for the migrants: Crossing illegally is against the law and it is dangerous," Medrano added. Overall, Sunland Park Fire has done around 80 water rescues so far this year, including Tuesday's. And while there were no fatalities this week, four migrants drowned along the same stretch of water two weeks ago.

Border Patrol, on its end, pinned the blame on human smuggler rings, saying they deceive migrants about the real danger of the routes they take them through. "We believe migrants are trusting their lives to transnational criminal organizations that tell them it's a safe passage when in reality there are multiple legal consequences for crossing illegally and you can put your life in danger doing so," said Border Patrol Spokesman Claudio Herrera.

Recent figures show that the number of apprehensions at the border has dropped significantly since the implementation of the latest measures, including more physical barriers by Texas and an executive action by the federal government, which basically shuts down asylum-seeking once the daily average of encounters over a week exceeds 2,500.

But rescues have in fact increased, suggesting the migrants who are still daring to cross are taking more perilous routes. Border Patrol has rescued 740 migrants this fiscal year (which started in october) compared to 360 between October 1, 2022 and early July of 2023.

"Migrants, at the end of the day, are going to be crossing wherever transnational criminal organizations tell them to do so. They don't know the area, they don't know the location," Herrera said. "Our advice hasn't changed for the migrant community and family members. Stop paying smuggling fees to make your family member come across the border illegally because you only put them in danger."

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