The grim reality of the US-Mexico border crisis

PHOTO: The view from inside a helicopter flying along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona. The helicopter was carrying Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan and an ABC News crew. (June 2018) (ABC News)

Early last year, as Border Patrol agents in Texas escorted an international news crew into what authorities say is the most remote area along the entire southwest border, someone in the group noticed a man sitting in a ravine, hidden behind brush.

Pedro Diego-Francisco, a Guatemalan migrant, had been there for three days, with no way to call for help as he suffered through temperatures that fell to 18 degrees at night. A smuggler brought him and other migrants to the desolate piece of land on their way into the United States, but the entire group abandoned Diego-Francisco after he injured his leg.

“He was wearing every piece of clothing he possessed to try and keep warm,” according to a Border Patrol statement.

When agents carried Diego-Francisco to safety, they said he declared, in Spanish, “They have saved my life. God repay them. I thought I was going to die.”

Early last year, as Border Patrol agents in Texas escorted an international news crew into what authorities say is the most remote area along the entire southwest border, someone in the group noticed a man sitting in a ravine, hidden behind brush.

Pedro Diego-Francisco, a Guatemalan migrant, had been there for three days, with no way to call for help as he suffered through temperatures that fell to 18 degrees at night. A smuggler brought him and other migrants to the desolate piece of land on their way into the United States, but the entire group abandoned Diego-Francisco after he injured his leg.

“He was wearing every piece of clothing he possessed to try and keep warm,” according to a Border Patrol statement.

When agents carried Diego-Francisco to safety, they said he declared, in Spanish, “They have saved my life. God repay them. I thought I was going to die.”

MORE: GOP lawmakers slam Biden after visit to migrant detention center at border

Stories like that are becoming more common as the U.S. braces for what Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said this week would be the highest number of individuals stopped by Border Patrol along the southwest border in 20 years.

National attention recently has focused more on the record numbers of unaccompanied children detained along the southwest border, but that’s only part of the increasingly grim story, as current and former law enforcement officials described it to ABC News.

“These people are desperate,” Jeff Self, a recently retired Border Patrol agent, said of migrants seeking to enter the United States. “I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same thing if I were down in El Salvador or those Central American countries, having to deal with the corruption, the poverty and the violence.”

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