SAN DIEGO — “The message needs to be out there to not put yourself in the hands of smuggling organizations. They’re callous! You’re just a commodity. You could lose your life. You could lose a limb.”

Staged in the dry, hot and dusty “no man’s land” along the international border between the U.S. and Mexico, near Otay Mesa East in San Diego, stakeholders from Border Patrol, Cal Fire, BORSTAR (the patrol’s search, trauma and rescue team) along with the Mexican general consul detailed the cold hard facts about human smuggling and its victims Wednesday.

“You have middle-aged women, children — vulnerable populations. You’ve seen videos of people dangling children on the other side,” said Deputy Chief Patrol Agent Patricia “Dyan” McGurk-Daniel.

BORSTAR uses drones, helicopters, all-terrain vehicles and more stealthy operations. So far this year, they’ve made roughly 5,000 rescues – 25 of them have been deadly. According to Mexico’s consul general, wall crossings are by far the most dangerous. 

“Most people do not realize: Today, eight out of 10 people that are injured in this region … have not to do with the mountains or the desert, they have to do with the wall — failed attempts to cross them illegally,” McGurk-Daniel said. “It’s extremely dangerous. Even beyond the people who will lose their lives, thousands of people have suffered injuries that are not repairable in the rest of their life.” 

The victims are not just from Mexico: that’s why their new signage and messaging carries multiple language. Through community and peer-to-peer conversation, border officials hope people will get the message.