Over the course of one recent 24-hour period, as many as 22 illegal immigrants were rescued by San Diego Border Patrol agents.
On Thanksgiving night at around 11:00 pm, agents discovered three people attempting to enter the U.S. illegally through a drainage pipe west of the San Ysidro Port of Entry, say officials.
The agents were able to rescue the immigrants who had fallen down in the tube with help from San Diego Fire and Rescue.
“I know the area,” Chris Harris, a retired U.S. Border Patrol Agent and retired union official, told The Epoch Times. “I’ve been in those tubes myself many times. When they’re dry, they’re okay, [but] when it rains it can be very dangerous.”
Officials reported ultimately discovering and rescuing 15 Mexican men, three Mexican women, one man from Guatemala, and a Mexican juvenile male.
At least seven were taken to the hospital for hypothermia.
“They’re very, very lucky to be alive,” Harris said.
“The lifesaving efforts of these agents, who bravely risk their own lives to save others, makes me proud,” San Diego Sector Chief Patrol Agent Douglas Harrison said in a statement. “Inclement weather conditions and perilous drainage pipe water flows, significantly increase the odds of a grim outcome.”
“Simply put, it not worth crossing the border illegally and risking one’s life.”
Harris explained how smugglers consider rain or fog to be ideal circumstances for sneaking across the border.
“Whenever we have a rain or fog event, they hammer us,” Harris said. “The smugglers … try to push a lot of people through because roads are closed, it’s hard for us to access areas … the limited visibility degrades our censors, it degrades our thermal cameras.”
At 3 a.m. the next morning, officers found the body of a deceased person near the mouth of the Tijuana River.
Around noon, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department responded to a distress call from an illegal immigrant woman who was lost in a mountainous area southeast of Otay Lakes Reservoir with her 16-year-old daughter.
When Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue (BORSTAR) found them, they were losing consciousness and suffering from lack of food and water.
Despite this significant rescue effort in a short period of time, the number of illegal immigrants crossing the U.S. border has been rapidly declining in recent months.
After peaking in May, the number of illegal immigrant arrests at the Southwest border fell more than 70 percent by November, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data.
“Due to some of the actions taken by the President … we started knocking those numbers back down,” Harris said. But “the reason it looks like they plummeted is because they had skyrocketed to numbers we hadn’t seen in over a decade.”
Harris indicated one factor that previously contributed to the surge in illegal border crossings was the loosening of asylum policies under the Obama administration.
“Asylum is for some very specific things—[like if] your country is committing genocide against [its] people,” he added. “When people were escaping from Khmer Rouge [in] Cambodia, they qualified for asylum.”
In Harris’s view, the concept of seeking asylum under the direst of situations is being taken advantage of by some individuals who attempt to cross the border illegally.
“I’ve interviewed people [who] are … leaving El Salvador because of MS-13. ‘Where are you going?’ ‘L.A.’ I’m like, ‘You know that’s where MS-13 started, right? So you’re telling me you’re trying to get away from MS-13 by going to L.A., where they’re a huge presence?” he said.
“In other words, if you left El Salvador and you’re claiming it’s because of gang violence … you’re in Mexico now, so you’re safe from the gang violence in El Salvador.”
According to the CBP, the U.S. Border Patrol prevented 977,509 people from entering the county without a visa between October 1, 2018 and September 30, 2019, compared to 521,090 people the year before.