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Migrant dies after crossing border into Sunland Park

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Officials say a migrant collapsed outside an elementary school and was pronounced dead Thursday afternoon after crossing the border into Sunland Park.

U.S. Border Patrol Agent Gilbert De Leon said the person was with a group of migrants when he collapsed outside the school a mile from the border and was left behind.

He did not identify the person, or give an age or gender, but the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico said in a news release that the person who died was a 20-year-old man.

De Leon did not immediately respond to additional questions about the incident.

“The summer heat in the West Texas and New Mexico border region is unforgiving and very dangerous for people attempting to illegally enter the United States,” Chief Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez of the El Paso sector, said in a news release. “Sadly, yesterday, our Border Patrol agents discovered a deceased individual approximately one mile from the international border who appeared to have suffered heat-related trauma.”

De Leon said agents working at the Santa Teresa Border Patrol Station were alerted Thursday to a person missing from a group of migrants.

“Agents learned that the subject had collapsed near a local elementary school, but the group had not stopped and left the individual behind,” he said. De Leon said agents found the person, who was later pronounced dead.

The ACLU of New Mexico said the man who died “in the harsh summer heat of the Sunland Park desert” was seeking asylum. Davida Gallegos said the organization is calling on the Biden administration to “reverse Trump-era policies that make tragic deaths like this inevitable.”

“This young man’s death is yet another example of how inhumane policies such as Title 42 force people who are escaping horrible conditions in their home countries to make dangerous and desperate decisions,” Nayomi Valdez, ACLU-NM public policy director, said in a release. “All people coming to the U.S. in search of sanctuary should be treated with the care and dignity they deserve.”

Title 42, which falls under a section of U.S. health law, permits the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prohibit entry into the U.S. of individuals when “there is serious danger of the introduction of (a communicable) disease into the United States.” Implemented in March 2020, it has been used to swiftly expel to Mexico undocumented border-crossers who come from “Coronavirus-impacted areas.”

Valdez noted that Biden previously promised to reverse Trump’s “cruel border policies” and his administration “must be held accountable to its promises to establish a fair and humane approach at the border.”

Gallegos said the man’s death wasn’t the only case of migrants recently found in distress in the area. She said two Ecuadorian women, one of them unconscious, were hospitalized after being found near the Santa Teresa port of entry Wednesday.

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