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Border fence-related injuries on the rise, official says


PHOENIX — Two Guatemalan teens were severely injured after trying to cross the border through Arizona and falling off an 18-foot border fence.

The 14-year-old, who was traveling with her mother, fell off and broke multiple vertebrae on her back, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Moments later, a 17-year-old unaccompanied girl also fell and injured her ankle. They were both crossing the border illegally near the San Luis Port of Entry.

Earlier this week, Border Patrol released a minute-long video of the 14-year-old falling from the fence. (WARNING: This video contains disturbing content.)

In the video, the teen is seen falling from the 18-foot wall and trying to crawl while being assisted by a woman. She lays on the ground for several minutes until border agents arrive. The incident happened last Friday.

Jose Garibay, a spokesman with Border Patrol’s Yuma sector, said these types of injuries are becoming more common.

“We’re seeing a little bit of everything,” he said. “We’re seeing lacerations from individuals that are falling off the wall and individuals that are cutting their hands on the concertina wire, broken legs, ankles – and just a lot of stuff from impact-related injuries of falling off the wall.”

Garibay was unable to provide the exact number of border fence-related injuries but said many of the injuries involve Central American migrants who are crossing the border illegally and seeking asylum in the United States.

“We don’t want these individuals crossing illegally into the United States and, therefore, putting their children and the rest of their family at risk from a lot of these wall-related injuries that we’re starting to see,” Garibay said, adding that asylum-seeking migrants should instead present themselves at ports of entry.

The increase in fence-related injuries comes as Border Patrol agents along the Yuma sector are seeing an increase in apprehensions.

This past fiscal year, agents apprehended more than 26,000 migrants. That’s up from about 12,850 the previous year.

“With an increase in those apprehension numbers, it’s only foreseeable that you can see an increase in these wall-related injuries and visits to the hospital,” Garibay said.

The number of injuries could continue to increase, as new and taller fencing is expected. Garibay said the Yuma sector is slated to get 27 miles of upgraded infrastructure. He said that includes replacing “outdate” 18-foot walls.

“In certain areas, we’re going to start seeing 30-foot walls with an upgraded concrete footer that’ll hinder these individuals being able to dig underneath the wall to get into United States,” he said.

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