Calexico, CA–Federal authorities are investigating the death of a migrant who drowned earlier this month in the All-American-Canal near Calexico Port of Entry.
On Feb. 1, at around 3:17 p.m. a Border Patrol remote camera operator spotted three individuals crossing the border barrier and entering the All-American Canal, approximately two-tenths of a mile east of the Calexico East Port of Entry in Calexico, Calif. The camera operator relayed the information via radio to a Border Patrol agent who responded to the area.
The camera operator informed the Border Patrol agent that one of the suspected undocumented individuals exited the water on the north side of the canal, one was standing on the bank on the south side of the canal, and one was in the water in the center of the canal. Approximately 23 seconds later, the camera operator reported that the individual in the middle of the canal was not advancing and that he was not sure if the individual was struggling. Approximately 15 seconds later, the individual on the north side of the canal fled north as the Border Patrol agent arrived. The Border Patrol agent observed the individual in the middle of the canal, noted that he did not appear to be in distress, so he proceeded to apprehend the migrant who ran north. During this time, the individual on the south bank of the canal returned to Mexico.
After the apprehension, and approximately 55 seconds after he arrived in the area, the Border Patrol agent asked the camera operator about the condition of the man in the middle of the canal and inquired if he was still struggling. The camera operator replied that he was not sure if the individual was struggling and would need to zoom the camera to get a better look. After doing so, the camera operator relayed that the migrant in the middle of the canal appeared to be struggling to stay afloat.
Within seconds, the Border Patrol agent returned to the canal bank to help the migrant. As the Border Patrol agent arrived, he asked the migrant if he needed help, to which the migrant responded “yes.” Before the Border Patrol agent was able to deploy a rescue device, the migrant sank below the surface of the water. The Border Patrol agent threw a flotation device to the area where the migrant was last seen, but the migrant never resurfaced.
Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility special agents reviewed radio traffic and video footage of the incident and interviewed the apprehended migrant. The apprehended migrant stated that he did not know the migrant who drowned, that they had only met prior to crossing the border barrier and that he saw the Border Patrol agent throw a flotation device to the migrant in the water.
Due to the dangerous conditions posed by the canal’s current, recovery efforts were delayed. On the morning of Feb. 2, Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue divers located the body of an adult male citizen of Mexico.
The incident is under review by the Imperial County Sheriff’s, Coroner’s Office and Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility. The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General was also notified.