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The bodies of eight people were recovered from the Rio Grande after dozens of migrants were swept downriver near Eagle Pass, in what appeared to be the deadliest mass drowning along the border in years, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said Friday.
CBP officials said the drownings occurred Thursday morning after a large group attempted to cross the Rio Grande, whose currents were running swiftly after several days of rain.
Border Patrol agents and other CBP personnel rescued 37 people from the river who were part of a larger group of 53 taken into U.S. custody, according to a CBP statement. Authorities arrested an additional 39 migrants on the Mexican side of the river.
During the rescue effort along the river, U.S. agents recovered the bodies of six drowning victims and Mexican authorities found two others, according to CBP. The agency did not provide information about the nationalities of the victims or their ages, but families with children have been crossing through the area in recent months.
The Border Patrol is working with search and rescue teams along the river “as the search continues for other possible victims,” the CBP statement said.
One CBP official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the incident, said the death toll appeared to be the worst mass drowning along the Rio Grande in years.
CBP’s Del Rio sector has been transformed since 2020 from one of the sleepiest stretches of the southern border into its busiest and most strained. Last month, U.S. agents made nearly 50,000 arrests in the Del Rio sector, the highest total along the entire Mexico border, CBP data show. The number of migrants taken into custody in Del Rio is on pace to exceed 400,000 during the current fiscal year ending Sept. 30, a tenfold increase from the same period in 2020.
Migrants and asylum seekers from Venezuela and Cuba have accounted for about half of the migrants crossing through the Del Rio sector in recent months for such reasons as seeking jobs safety and reunification with relatives. More than 14,000 Venezuelans were taken into custody in the sector in July, along with more than 10,000 Cubans, according to government data.
Tens of thousands of border-crossers from Haiti attempted to reach the United States through the Del Rio area a year ago, forming a makeshift camp along the banks of the Rio Grande that created a humanitarian crisis for the Biden administration. But the latest CBP records show that five Haitians were detained in Del Rio last month and nine in July, down from a high of 15,951 in September 2021.
Scores of migrants have died this year along the stretch of river near Eagle Pass after being swept under by the Rio Grande’s deceptively strong currents. In April, a Texas National Guard soldier died attempting to rescue two people he thought were drowning; they turned out to be suspected drug smugglers.
Agents in the Del Rio sector have recovered the bodies of more than 200 migrants since Oct. 1, according to CBP.
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