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Code 500 in the War on Illegal Immigration

Updated on April 23, 2013

They are the result of being desperate. So desperate, they are willing to gamble with their own lives hoping what they find is a better life. Yet for many, the end result is a Code 500- the official signal that a body has been found somewhere near the U.S.- Mexico border. The mostly are Hispanics who have paid human smugglers to smuggle them into the USA.

Brooks County in Texas, south of San Antonio, has found hundreds of dead bodies strewn about over the past year. Most of them made it across only to find themselves on their own in the vast expanse facing high heat and little water.

Once smugglers cross the border, they still may get snagged by one of the 71 checkpoints 25 -100 miles distant. These are the immigration's second line of defense, stopping traffic along major roads. The human smugglers use side roads to avoid them and go deep into no man's land and become lost or stranded. The worst part of this, besides their death, is that these people paid the smugglers anywhere from $5000 to $8000 for the ride. Many times, the smugglers will guide them on foot around the checkpoints.

It is not uncommon for a 911 call from an illegal to the US Customs for help. Living is still better than dying. Others are no so lucky. Some ranchers in Texas have installed beacons with signs in English, Spanish and Chinese instructing the illegals to press the button if they fear they cannot make it.

The cost to Brooks County which has an annual budget of $5 million to bury the bodies last year ran $200,000. The local cemetery has ran out of space as it is filled with many "John Does". Texas is now the hotbed for illegal crossings, replacing Arizona. The county only has nine sheriffs to patrol with only two on duty at a time.

To avoid the checkpoints, the smugglers use Google GPS to locate other roads and ways around the checkpoint often taking them on dirt roads and through vast empty ranches. Many of the Code 500 victims are chewed up by wild animals by the time they are found. Some may have died when they strained their ankle or became injured and left behind by the smuggler. The lucky ones reach their breaking point when going without food and water for four days. They find the button to press or call 911 to surrender.

Even to the border patrol, discovering a Code 500 is a humbling sight. The image never leaves.


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