Cartel Violence Spills Into US as Border Patrol Treats Gunshot Victims

Migrants land on U.S. soil after crossing the Rio Grande on July 01, 2021 in Roma, Texas. / Getty Images
October 8, 2021

Border Patrol agents are dealing not just with surging migrant populations but also with victims of cartel violence who are being treated in the United States for wounds sustained in Mexico.

Customs and Border Protection disclosed on Thursday that agents found five migrants outside the border town of Hidalgo, Texas, who required emergency medical treatment due to gunshot wounds that are suspected to have taken place in Mexico. Those migrants were sent to a local hospital and their condition remains unknown.

"This encounter serves as yet another reminder of the dangers migrants face when they place their well-being in the hands of smugglers who are only interested in turning a profit," Rio Grande Valley Sector chief patrol agent Brian S. Hastings said in a statement. "Smugglers routinely place migrants in dangerous situations where they are at risk of drowning, exposure to the elements, and assault." 

Customs and Border Protection did not disclose the status of the six other migrants found in the group, nor whether the injured would be deported after their treatment. Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not respond to a request for comment.

News of the injured migrants comes as warfare between rival cartels in Mexico is putting both American civilians and military personnel at risk. Fox News reported gunfire flying over the head of Texas Army National Guard soldiers standing guard near the border late Thursday night. 

"Soldiers told us there have been cartel gunfights in Ciudad Miguel Aleman, the Mexican city across from Roma, TX, frequently in recent days and weeks," journalist Bill Melugin tweeted on Friday. "The soldiers heard gunfire and explosions two days ago and showed us this video of smoke billowing after the gunfight."

Since the beginning of 2021, Border Patrol agents have arrested 325 gang members, a sharp decrease from previous years even as general apprehensions have skyrocketed. In 2019, the agency arrested 976 gang members and 808 in 2018. More than 150 of this year's gang-related arrests have been in the Rio Grande Valley, the sector that has seen the brunt of this year's migrant surge.

Meanwhile, fentanyl seizures in 2021 have nearly doubled compared with last year. By the end of July, CBP reported its agents confiscated 9,337 pounds of the narcotic.