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Guatemalan teens scaling 18-foot U.S. border wall ‘severely injured’ in fall, agents say

Guatemalan teens ‘severely injured’ in fall from US border wall in Arizona

Two teens fell while climbing an 18-foot U.S.-Mexico border wall near the San Luis Port of Entry outside Yuma, Arizona, and had to be hospitalized. Customs and Border Protection took four other Guatemalans into custody.
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Two teens fell while climbing an 18-foot U.S.-Mexico border wall near the San Luis Port of Entry outside Yuma, Arizona, and had to be hospitalized. Customs and Border Protection took four other Guatemalans into custody.

Two teenagers from Guatemala were “severely injured” in Arizona Friday after they fell while scaling an 18-foot border wall that separates the United States and Mexico, federal officials said.

The first girl, a 14-year-old, tumbled from the wall around 1 p.m., seriously injuring her back near the San Luis Port of Entry outside of Yuma, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents said in a news release Monday. The girl was traveling into the U.S. with her mother. Moments later, a second girl — an unaccompanied 17-year-old — also fell from the wall, hurting her ankle, border agents said.

Four other Guatemalans crossed the border wall illegally with the injured teens.

“The only legal and safe method of entry into the United States is through a designated Port of Entry,” Carl Landrum, the Yuma sector’s acting chief patrol agent, said in a statement. “People entering our country illegally, at places other than designated Ports of Entry, put themselves and their families in dangerous situations that could result in significant injury or even death.”

Yuma Station border patrol agents called in local emergency medical responders. Those local responders worked with border agents who had emergency medical training to stabilize the injured teens.

Meanwhile, border agents took the four other Guatemalans into custody, according to Customs and Border Protection.

Sanctuary cities have become a hot topic in recent months, but the modern movement began more than 30 years ago in Tucson, Arizona.

The 14-year-old with the back injury was brought to a Yuma hospital, then moved by helicopter to a hospital in Phoenix, while the 17-year-old’s ankle injury was treated in Yuma, border agents said. The 17-year-old is now out of the hospital.

Border agents said signs on the wall warn of injuries that are possible from scaling it.

Customs and Border Protection video from the scene, shared by KVOA, shows the teens struggling after the substantial drop from the top of the wall. Neither appears able to walk.

Thousands of migrants from Central America have been detained by Yuma area border agents this year, including 654 in a single two-day span in November, according to Customs and Border Protection. There have been more than twice as many border apprehensions in the Yuma Sector this year compared to 2017.

Migrants have fled their homes in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to escape gang violence and hunger, and to find work in the United States.

Food insecurity, not violence, seems to be a key push factor informing the decision to travel from Guatemala, where we have seen the largest growth in the migration flow this year,” Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan said in September, according to the Washington Post.

But even the act of crossing from Mexico into the U.S. can be dangerous.

Just last month, steel bars and construction debris impaled a 26-year-old Guatemalan woman in front of her kids as she climbed over a U.S.-Mexico border fence in San Diego, the Sacramento Bee reported.

“This woman placed her own life and her children’s lives in peril,” Rodney Scott, San Diego’s chief border patrol agent, said in a statement. “She could have easily died if not for the quick response by our agents and EMS.”

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