Four border deaths in Texas could be a preview of the summer

Two babies, a toddler and a woman were found dead near the U.S.-Mexican border, overcome by the sweltering heat in a glimpse of what could lie ahead this summer as record numbers of migrant families try to get into the United States.

Authorities believe the four may have been dead for days before the bodies were discovered on Sunday in the Rio Grande Valley. No details were released on the victims’ relationship.

It was the latest grim discovery of migrants who died while trying to cross the perilous desert and the swollen Rio Grande.

A law enforcement official close to the investigation told The Associated Press the four were overcome by the heat after fording the river. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Migrant families have been coming over the border in unprecedented numbers in recent months, reaching a peak in May, when 84,000 adults and children traveling together were apprehended. Nearly 500,000 immigrants have been detained at the border since the start of the year, resulting in dangerous overcrowding in U.S. holding centers.

A total of 283 migrant deaths were recorded along the 2,000-mile border last year. The death toll so far this year was not immediately released.

Three children and an adult from Honduras are believed to have died after their raft overturned on the Rio Grande in April. They had considered seeking asylum but were daunted by a long wait list to get into the U.S., according to a shelter official who met the family.

A 6-year-old immigrant from India was found dead in the triple-digit heat in Arizona this month, and seven people believed to be migrants died in June alone in irrigation canals that run alongside border barriers near El Paso. The total last year for such deaths in those canals was 11.

Border Patrol spokesman Ramiro Cordero said that in past years, agents would be posted near canals and hear the cries of help from migrants. But they are doing other duties this year with so many immigrants showing up, some in poor health.

“Unfortunately, because of the large influx of illegal aliens and agents having to be diverted to other duties, such as transporting, hospital escorts … there are not a lot of agents readily available to hear these cries,” he said in a statement.

The Trump administration is also under siege from critics who believe it is taking too hard a line toward humanitarian volunteers who help border crossers by leaving jugs of water in the desert and providing medical assistance.

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