Desperate immigrants call Brooks County 911

Sheriff: We’re not going to let them die out there

BROOKS COUNTY, Texas – Illegal immigrants overcome by the South Texas heat often call Brooks County 911, triggering an all-out search by sheriff’s deputies and U.S. Border Patrol.

“These people are asking for help. We’re not going to let them die out here,” said Rey Rodriguez, Brooks County sheriff. Jennifer Garza, a dispatcher for five years, said whenever there is immigrant in distress “we don’t go home or we keep checking back to find out what happened.”

Garza said one of her most harrowing calls yet as a dispatcher was an 8-hour ordeal with an immigrant named Angel who said he was from El Salvador.

“He was in such bad shape that I was really losing faith they were going to find him,” Garza said.

The search was so thorough, she said a few immigrants were found but not Angel.

Garza said the man told her he had collapsed in pain and was unable to walk any further because he had recently undergone hip surgery.

She said Angel cried describing how he was trying to join in his sons in the United States, but a smuggler and the rest of his group had to leave him behind.

Now he was suffering from dehydration.

“Hurry, please. If not, I’m going to die,” Angel said. “Are you vomiting blood?” Garza asked him. “Yes, yes,” he said.

Each time he called back to conserve his phone’s battery, Garza asked where he was. She said he was gasping as he tried to describe where he was, laying in the sun on ranch road of white sand. “Vargas, Vargas,” Angel kept repeating a name scrawled on a fence post.

Fortunately, Garza said one of their sheriff’s deputies who had worked as ranch hand, remembered where that was.

“I wanted to cry. I was very excited,” Garza said.

When she finally got to meet Angel, Garza said he was grateful. “He said he would always pray for us,” she said. “I wanted to tell him, please, don’t ever do this again,” Garza said.

Dispatchers come across many other similar calls and said many just disappear and their remains are never found.

“What if it were us, we would want someone to come to our aid,” Garza said.


About the Author:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.