U.S. Border Patrol agents rescued five migrants who were found dehydrated and disoriented Tuesday morning on Otay Mountain.
At 2:30 a.m., the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department notified agents about five migrants who were lost east of Otay Mesa. By 10 a.m., Border Patrol had located the group.
One of the migrants was a woman who suffered a leg injury and had to be airlifted in a CAL Fire helicopter to a nearby hospital, according to Border Patrol.
The remaining four migrants were taken to a Border Patrol station for processing.
The agents who responded to the scene are part of the Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue Unit, known as BORSTAR. The team was established 20 years ago to handle the growing number of migrant deaths along the border.
“Our primary job is to protect the border, but it’s also to protect those people trying to cross,” said agent Miguel Angel Peña.
And that includes land, air, and sea.
The Air and Marine Operations, which is also a part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, works to catch protentional smugglers or rescue migrants lost at sea.
“Safety of life at sea is a huge concern. Somebody’s not going to last long in waters that are as cold as they are out here, but also because of the currents and heavy waves,” said Air Marine Operations, San Diego Agent Charles Cason. “There’s always a law enforcement mission but when someone’s life comes into it – that’s the precedence.”
Peña told NBC 7 rescues along the border can be traumatic.
“Finding corpse, seeing kids in distress, couple fatalities,” he said.
In 2018, Border Patrol reported 238 deaths along the southwestern border. Agents are also tasked with identifying any bodies of migrants found near the border, but 37 percent of them go unidentified each year.