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Migrants killed in SUV crash near the Mexico border paid up to $10k EACH to be smuggled into the US

The 13 migrants killed in a crash near Calexico, California, last week had paid up to $10,000 each to be smuggled into the U.S., DailyMail.com can reveal.

Border Patrol believe the crossing – the first large vehicle breach in the El Centro sector of 2021 – was organized by a network of criminal gangs who charge desperate migrants thousands of dollars to make the crossing in specially modified cars.

The people killed in the crash were among the increasing numbers of migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. in recent months.

Border Patrol figures for the El Centro sector where the crash occurred show that 13,787 people attempted to cross into the U.S. illegally in January alone – a 100 percent increase from 2020 when just 6,429 attempts were made.

Border Patrol say the Biden administration’s relaxation of President Trump’s hardline immigration policies have encouraged more people to attempt the journey.  

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, 44 people illegally slipped through a 10 ft gap in the US-Mexican border fence before the Ford Expedition they were traveling in pulled in front of the truck at an intersection causing the fatal crash (pictured)

Hilda Richard, 48, of Holtville, is seen at a memorial for the victims. She told DailyMail.com, 'I heard they were undocumented migrants coming to the U.S. for a new life'

Hilda Richard, 48, of Holtville, is seen at a memorial for the victims. She told DailyMail.com, ‘I heard they were undocumented migrants coming to the U.S. for a new life’

When DailyMail.com visited the crash site on Thursday, the wreckage had been cleared but a small shrine had been set up – dotted with candles, flowers and signs demanding justice 

Two SUVs were spotted entering the U.S. by Border Patrol cameras Tuesday morning  after smugglers pulled down a section of the 18ft high border fence 30 miles south of Calexico early Tuesday morning.

One of the cars crashed shortly after driving off – although no one was hurt – while the other was t-boned by a semi-truck as it sped through an intersection 35 miles north-west of the border.

Border Patrol say the Biden administration's relaxation of President Trump's hardline immigration policies have encouraged more people to attempt the dangerous journey

Border Patrol say the Biden administration’s relaxation of President Trump’s hardline immigration policies have encouraged more people to attempt the dangerous journey

The impact sent the car spinning into a nearby field, scattering debris, and killing 13 of the Mexican and Guatemalan passengers instantly. Another 12 were taken to hospital.  

A spokesman for the Border Patrol El Centro sector told DailyMail.com there were 12 similar border breaches last year.

California Highway Patrol named the injured to DailyMail.com as Darlin Robledo, 20, from Tapachula, Mexico, Avelardo Nava, 18, from Guerrero, Mexico, and Manuel Rufino, 39, from Oaxaca, Mexico.

Rene Zelando, 30, from Nayarit, Mexico, Berti Orozco, 21, from Guatemala City, Guatemala, Zeterina Mendoza, 33, from Guerrero, Mexico, Camilio Rodriguez, 44, from Santa Maria del Oro, Mexico, Jose Martinez, 16, from Guerrero, Mexico, and Berlin Cardona, 46, from Guatemala City, Guatemala, were all badly hurt and taken to San Diego for treatment.

Jorge Gutierrez Martinez, 24, Esteban Montiel, 22, and a 15-year-old girl who has yet to be identified are all hospitalized in Palm Springs with major wounds

The injured victims are still being treated for their wounds but are likely to face deportation once they recover unless they file an asylum claim.

Border Patrol sources also told DailyMail.com that one of the dead or injured is a people smuggler – at least one smuggler or coyote travels with every group.

While on some occasions, they are the driver, many smugglers travel as a passenger which lets them hide from law enforcement among their clients.

Yesenia Cardona, 23, from Guatemala City, Guatemala, was named last week as one of the dead – police said they are still trying to identify the rest of the victims.

Now DailyMail.com can reveal that passengers had paid a minimum of $5,000 each, rising to $10,000 for the Guatemalans who had made the longest trip.

Yesenia Cardona, 23, from Guatemala was among 13 migrants who died in a deadly car crash on Tuesday after illegally crossing the border from Mexico. Yesenia was traveling with her mother, Berlin, (pictured together) as they crossed the border and she died in her mother's arms

Yesenia Cardona, 23, from Guatemala was among 13 migrants who died in a deadly car crash on Tuesday after illegally crossing the border from Mexico. Yesenia was traveling with her mother, Berlin, (pictured together) as they crossed the border and she died in her mother’s arms 

The SUV had slipped through this gap in the border fence on Tuesday morning

The SUV had slipped through this gap in the border fence on Tuesday morning

Repair workers were seen Friday fixing the section of the border fence between the US and Mexico breached by alleged people smugglers last week close to Gordon’s Well exit on the I-8 in California

The people killed in the crash were among the increasing numbers of migrants attempting to cross into the US in recent months. Border Patrol figures for the El Centro sector where the crash occurred show that 13,787 people attempted to cross into the U.S. illegally in January alone – a 100 percent increase from 2020 when just 6,429 attempts were made

The people killed in the crash were among the increasing numbers of migrants attempting to cross into the US in recent months. Border Patrol figures for the El Centro sector where the crash occurred show that 13,787 people attempted to cross into the U.S. illegally in January alone – a 100 percent increase from 2020 when just 6,429 attempts were made

Jacqueline Arellano, 38, who works with migrant charity Border Kindness told DailyMail.com: ‘It’s incredibly expensive. It costs between $5,000 and $10,000 to make the crossing which goes to the guide – or coyote – to take them and sometimes, even to allow them to cross.

‘It’s really costly. It’s something people put a lot on the line for.’

Former Border Patrol agent Jenn Budd, 49, from El Cajon, California, added: ‘The amount depends on where they’re from.’

Budd, who quit her job in 2001 and is now a migrant advocate, added: ‘Somebody who’s from China is going to cost a lot more than somebody who’s from Guatemala.

‘It also depends on how you want to come. If you have unlimited amounts of money, it’s not even like being smuggled – you just buy your way in.

‘The people who were involved in the crash are the lower end of the money scale but they’re still paying thousands.’ 

When DailyMail.com visited the crash site on Thursday, the wreckage had been cleared but a small shrine had been set up – dotted with candles, flowers and signs demanding justice.

The migrant SUV had been attempting to cross busy State Road 115 at a crossroad when it was hit by a semi-trailer.

A mass was held on Thursday at the scene of the accident between a SUV carrying 25 immigrants and a truck near the US-Mexico border

A mass was held on Thursday at the scene of the accident between a SUV carrying 25 immigrants and a truck near the US-Mexico border

One woman hold a sign that reads 'They will live in our hearts' at the scene of the accident

One woman hold a sign that reads ‘They will live in our hearts’ at the scene of the accident

Locals told DailyMail.com the area is notorious for crashes with tractors, trucks, semis that go doing down the busy highway

Locals told DailyMail.com the area is notorious for crashes with tractors, trucks, semis that go doing down the busy highway

Locals told DailyMail.com the area is notorious for crashes. Meribel Jimenez, 33, from nearby El Centro, said: ‘There’s a lot of tractors, trucks, semis that go down here. It’s always busy.

‘I’m pretty sure they were nervous – they were going too fast and didn’t want to stop. The trucks, cars are always underestimating how fast they’re going and it’s hard for them to stop.’

Sgt Arturo Platero (pictured) of the California Highway Patrol told DailyMail.com: 'There was no chase. As far as the crash is concerned, our agency is investigating to determine the cause of the collision and that could take a few months to figure out

Sgt Arturo Platero (pictured) of the California Highway Patrol told DailyMail.com: ‘There was no chase. As far as the crash is concerned, our agency is investigating to determine the cause of the collision and that could take a few months to figure out

Hilda Richard, 48, of Holtville, added: ‘I heard they were undocumented migrants coming to the US for a new life.

‘Those poor people, their poor families. I live just down the road and it’s always so busy here.’

Others visiting the shrine were angry.

Hugo Castro, 48, of border charity SOS Migrantes, told DailyMail.com there needs to be a change in the law.

He said: ‘They didn’t hurt nobody. It was a crash. A lot of farmworkers are saying that actually there were Border Patrol agents around the area but they are afraid. So what’s the truth?

‘We are now experiencing the effects of inhumane immigration policies right here in my country, the United States. We need humane immigration reform.’

Sgt Arturo Platero of the California Highway Patrol told DailyMail.com: ‘There was no chase. As far as the crash is concerned, our agency is investigating to determine the cause of the collision and that could take a few months to figure out.

He added: ‘Me personally, I’ve never come across anything like that before. It’s extreme. Obviously, that vehicle wasn’t meant to hold that many people.

‘We deal with crashes on a daily basis. Every day we see collisions and every day there are people who die as a result. But this magnitude, this is obviously something different.’ 

Officer Carlos Pitones of the El Centro sector told DailyMail.com: ‘It’s been picking up – it’s been really busy in the area.

‘Biden is having an effect.’

Budd disputes this idea, saying the increase in crossing attempts is due to the border shutdown and Trump’s suspension of asylum processing, only recently lifted by Biden.

She added: ‘People don’t just drop everything and come when they hear there’s a new president. Making the decision to come to the US is a big deal – they don’t just come.’

Signs, candles and flowers are seen at the crash site in a memorial for the 13 migrants who lost their lives last week

Signs, candles and flowers are seen at the crash site in a memorial for the 13 migrants who lost their lives last week 

Hugo Castro, 48, (pictured) of border charity SOS Migrantes, told DailyMail.com there needs to be a change in the law

Hugo Castro, 48, (pictured) of border charity SOS Migrantes, told DailyMail.com there needs to be a change in the law

'Those poor people, their poor families. I live just down the road and it's always so busy here,' one local at the scene told DailyMail.com

‘Those poor people, their poor families. I live just down the road and it’s always so busy here,’ one local at the scene told DailyMail.com 

The site of the crash is in southeastern California, about 10 miles east of El Centro and about 11 miles north of the Mexican border. The SUV had crossed the border illegally that morning

The site of the crash is in southeastern California, about 10 miles east of El Centro and about 11 miles north of the Mexican border. The SUV had crossed the border illegally that morning

Arellano added: ‘Regardless of who’s in office, it doesn’t have much of a difference for the most disadvantaged because there’s a lot of different avenues for migration.

‘Biden being in office and the negative impact Trump had hasn’t really affected the refugees who were able to apply for asylum. That’s the folks that have been waiting at the border for the last year.

‘But for the people that are crossing through the desert or who are being packed into these SUVs, these are folks that have no recourse so for them, they don’t qualify for asylum, they have no means and they’re obviously desperate enough because of the conditions of their country of origin, they’re going to do something dangerous just for a chance.

‘Historically, for that set of folks, who’s in office hasn’t made much of a difference.’

Pitones told DailyMail.com that the section of the border fence that was pulled down was an old one and that the newer sections are almost double the height at 30ft.

But Arellano says people will keep trying regardless. She said: ‘The wall doesn’t work. The wall is a monument. It’s not actually keeping anybody out.

‘Not only is the wall compromised frequently, it can be circumvented because it’s incomplete. Even if it was complete, people would go over it, people would go under it.

‘The conditions that are driving human desperation aren’t going to be contained by any wall, any technology, anything.’ 


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