June 26, 2000
Intensifies Life-Saving Measures Along the Southwest Border
WASHINGTON – Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)
Commissioner Doris Meissner and U.S. Border Patrol Chief Gustavo
De La Viña today announced plans to intensify safety efforts
to reduce injuries and prevent fatalities along the Southwest
The new measures are designed to ensure that all Border Patrol
agents on the Southwest border have appropriate safety training.
They include the development of swift-water rescue training
programs in sectors where agents patrol along rivers and canals.
"Protecting our borders includes the obligation to protect
lives. Since its launch two years ago, the Border Safety Initiative
has greatly strengthened our ability to meet this obligation,"
said Meissner, noting that more than 2,000 migrants have been
rescued from life-threatening situations since the initiative’s
inception in June 1998. "We must continue to build and
redouble safety efforts because just one death is one too
The Border Safety Initiative, developed in close cooperation
with Mexican officials, is designed to educate migrants about
the risks and dangers of crossing the border illegally and
to assist those who do not heed the warnings. It has three
elements: prevention, search and rescue and identification.
The Initiative draws on longstanding public safety measures
practiced locally by the Border Patrol along the Southwest
border. "With this foundation, we have developed an aggressive
borderwide safety program," said Chief De La Viña. He
added, "Our goal is to further strengthen this program
by continuing to heighten training and awareness among all
agents, from Brownsville to Imperial Beach, of the dangers
INS is enhancing the current initiative by focusing on agent
training. In addition to specialized training programs for
rescues in swift waters, the Border Patrol sectors are also
establishing refresher programs in CPR and advanced emergency
first aid, subjects taught to all agents during basic training.
The Border Safety Initiative is being incorporated into the
operational plan of each station on the Southwest border so
that safety is incorporated into all operational decisions.
In accordance with a Memorandum of Understanding with the
Mexican Government, INS will participate in joint training
exercises with their Mexican counterparts in order to keep
agents on both sides of the border prepared and trained in
public safety measures. INS and the Mexican Government will
continue to share critical information and where appropriate,
equipment that will allow both governments to increase public
safety along the border.
Border Patrol sectors are continuing their outreach efforts
to warn migrants of the dangers of crossing the border illegally
through local public service announcements that are aired
in the border region in both the United States and Mexico.
Posters that warn would-be crossers about the dangers of putting
their lives into the hands of smugglers are being placed in
highly visible areas in INS facilities in the hopes that the
message will reach migrants who may be considering using a
smuggler to bring family members across the border illegally.
"Intensifying our focus on public safety is critical,
especially as we move into the summer months when the dangers
associated with illegal crossings rise with the temperature,"
Chief De La Viña said.
These initiatives build on actions INS has already taken
to increase the safety of the border region. As part of the
Border Safety Initiative, INS has:
- Developed and implemented
a comprehensive methodology for tracking migrant deaths
- Mapped dangerous crossing
points and developed reports outlining where deaths and
- Deployed technology and
personnel to cover especially hazardous areas;
- Worked with Mexican officials
to place warning signs at major transportation areas and
especially dangerous crossing points;
- Expanded the coordination
of public information efforts with U.S. and Mexican media
outlets to warn would-be crossers about dangerous crossing
- Developed formal agreement
with Mexican officials on the schedules for returns of migrants
to Mexico with special provisions for children and women;
- Equipped all vehicles
with extra water and coolers;
- Developed toll-free numbers
in the United States for anyone to call INS if they see
migrants who may be in danger and in need of rescue; and
- Worked with Mexican consuls,
local medical examiners and INS officials to establish border-wide
procedures to identify the deceased.
– INS –