At least a dozen people killed in a crash between an SUV and a semi truck in southern California on Tuesday had entered the U.S. from Mexico through a hole in the border fence, U.S. Border Patrol confirmed.
The SUV was carrying 25 people when the driver, a resident of Mexico, entered an intersection “directly in front” of the truck, according to a preliminary report by Highway Patrol. Among the passengers, 12 were killed at the scene and another died in the hospital of injuries sustained in the crash.
Another SUV that entered through the same gap in the border fence caught fire in an unrelated incident, and Border Patrol agents took all 19 occupants of the vehicle into custody. Both vehicles were used as part of a human smuggling operation, the agency indicated.
“We pray for the accident victims and their families during this difficult time,” Border Patrol El Centro sector head Gregory Bovino said. “Human smugglers have proven time and again they have little regard for human life. Those who may be contemplating crossing the border illegally should pause to think of the dangers that all too often end in tragedy tragedies our Border Patrol Agents and first responders are unfortunately very familiar with.”
The Border Patrol said its agents did not attempt to stop the vehicles when they first came through the fence. The breach was cut from aging steel bollards that were erected prior to the Trump administration’s attempts to refurbish border barriers.
The Biden administration is bracing for a record surge in illegal border crossings, prompted in part by a perception among would be migrants that enforcement has been relaxed.
“We’re seeing the highest February numbers than we’ve ever seen in the history of the [Unaccompanied Alien Child] program,” a Department of Health and Human Services official told Axios last week.
Texas Democrats who represent border districts are also warning that they are already seeing early signs of an impending crisis, and criticizing the White House for not being more forceful in its rhetoric.
“It’s okay to listen to the immigration activists and advocates,” Representative Henry Cuellar told National Review. “But the other side of the formula is to listen to the border communities. And you’ve got to balance your approach, when you listen to both sides, and not just the immigrant activists, that many times live thousands of miles away from the border.”