RIO GRANDE VALLEY – The public awareness campaign trying to discourage Central Americans from falling prey to smugglers was produced by Marlene Castro, a supervisory Border Patrol agent in the Rio Grande Valley sector, who sees the consequences on an almost daily basis.
The public service announcements distributed in Central America urge those considering the treacherous journey to think again. The videos are called “Don’t risk your life” or “No se arriesgue su vida,” in Spanish.
Castro interviewed several immigrants who risked their lives. In their own words, they shared emotional stories of struggle and survival at the hands of smugglers.
One of the most poignant stories was that of a young man, 19, who didn’t want to leave his home country, but followed his father to the U.S. anyway.
“He knew if he didn’t, he’d never see his father again,” Castro said.
Castro said from Honduras to Reynosa, the father and son had one meal and no water. After crossing the border, Castro said the smuggler gave them a jug of water, but it was too late.
Castro said the father collapsed in the brush and was unable to move or talk. He was overrun by ants.
“That has to be traumatizing for anyone — to see your loved one covered in ants,” Castro said.
“Leave him there. They’ll find him. Let’s go,” Castro said the son was told by the smuggler.
The young man refused to leave his father’s side.
“I can’t leave him. He’s my father,” he told the smuggler.
Abandoned, the son said he carried his father as far as he could until Border Patrol came to their rescue. His father died days later.
At the end of the announcement featuring the young man, he pleads to those back home to think hard about making the dangerous trek. He said the risks are real.
Castro also interviewed two women who are cousins. They had been on their first trip to the U.S., with two of their own children.
“It was horrible,” the women told Castro.
They took on two smugglers to stop one of their daughters, who was only 11, from being raped.
Castro said the mother stood up and said, “Over my dead body.”
“She charged him and tackled him, at which point, the second smuggler came in,” Castro said.
Castro said as one smuggler held down the mother, the other punched her in the face and began beating her. The mother said they finally stopped when they thought Border Patrol was coming.
“I applaud that woman for being so brave, fighting for her daughter,” Castro said.
Castro said these personal testimonies convey why smugglers cannot be trusted.
“They’re callous and they’re cruel,” she said.