At least eight undocumented people are dead after a head-on collision during a high-speed chase with law enforcement in south Texas, marking the latest grisly tragedy as U.S. officials scramble to respond to a spike in desperate border crossings.
Authorities say the crash occurred outside Del Rio at around 1:30 p.m. Monday after Texas Department of Public Safety troopers pursued a speeding red pickup truck, which then collided with an oncoming white Ford. The Val Verde County Sheriff said the crash, which occurred about 30 miles from the United States-Mexico border, killed eight of the nine individuals in the red truck immediately.
“The driver and a child passenger from the Ford pickup and one undocumented passenger from the Dodge pickup were transported to a hospital in San Antonio and are in stable condition,” a DPS spokesperson told The Daily Beast Tuesday, adding that the driver of the red truck ran away after the collision but was later arrested.
The deadly crash comes amid a slew of sometimes fatal incidents near the border in recent weeks as thousands of people seek relief from violence and pandemic-era deprivation. According to KENS5, border patrol officials near the Del Rio Sector are apprehending over 600 migrants a day—even though the border is still effectively closed to most adults amid the coronavirus pandemic. CBP officials say at least 100,000 migrants entered the U.S. illegally in February, marking a 28 percent increase from the month before.
“Our Southern border is on fire, and sadly, I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX), told the outlet on Monday. “It’s so important that one, the Biden Administration acknowledge this is a crisis and devote the resources necessary in order to alleviate some of the stress.”
On Monday, the Biden administration directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist in the ongoing crisis, particularly to help care for the thousands of unaccompanied children who have crossed the border in overwhelming numbers. While FEMA normally provides financial assistance after natural disasters, the agency will help find shelter space and provide “food, water, and basic medical care” to the young migrants, according to a statement. Some of those children are reportedly being held by border security for longer than the legally-permitted 72 hours, and are unable to shower for days.
To help house under-aged migrants and prevent overcrowding, FEMA announced Monday it will use a Dallas convention center as a temporary shelter, the Associated Press first reported. The convention center was recently used to provide storm relief after Texas endured a deadly freeze that left millions without power. It will be available for the next three months and will provide space for up to 3,000 people.
The Department of Homeland Security will also “help care for and assist unaccompanied minors” who have been held in border jails that are managed by Customs and Border Protection, the agency said Tuesday.
“The situation at the southwest border is difficult. We are working around the clock to manage it and we will continue to do so," Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a statement. "That is our job. We are making progress and we are executing on our plan. It will take time and we will not waver in our commitment to succeed,”
But the crisis at the border extends far beyond financial and housing problems. Earlier this month, at least a dozen people died after an SUV crashed into a semi truck in Southern California. The horrifying March 2 crash occurred after two-dozen people were crammed into the SUV about 15 miles north of the border in El Centro. Authorities say the Ford Expedition, which has seating for up to eight passengers, was traveling westbound when it collided with a semi truck laden with gravel.
The driver of the SUV, a 22-year-old from Mexicali, Mexico, was among the dead. The 69-year-old driver of the big rig sustained moderate injuries. At least 10 Mexican nationals were killed in the crash, the Mexican Consulate said in a statement.
“It would be premature of me to speculate on what happened at this collision. The important thing is that 13 people died in this crash,” California Highway Patrol Border Division Chief Omar Watson said in a press conference after that crash. “We owe it to the families of those that were killed and injured as well as the public to conduct a complete and thorough investigation.”