Illegal immigration: Crossing the Border a Deadly Game of Life and Death

The recent pickup truck crash in South Texas, where 15 immigrants were killed, has revealed the deadly game some illegal immigrants are playing in the pursuit of a better life.

The car crash, which is being described as one of the nation's deadliest immigrant smuggling accidents, took place on a rural South Texas highway. The route is apparently well known to be used by smugglers, commonly called coyotes, to pass illegal immigrants across the border. According to authorities at least 23 people were crammed inside the cab and bed of the vehicle.

The cause of the accident is being investigated but preliminary findings indicate that a tyre failure could have been to blame.

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Coyotes are usually paid a fee by immigrants to smuggle them into the United States, in the hope for a better economic reality and often to help those left behind in their native countries.

But for many, like the ones killed in the recent car crash, crossing the border is more a game of life and death - and a game that is tragically repeated over and over again.

The crash in Goliad County, Texas, where according to authorities 15 immigrants from Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala were killed, took place less than an hours drive from the site of the deadliest immigrant smuggling case in the country. In that May 2003 case 19 immigrants, including a 5 year old, died after being put into a trailer along with 51 others. The horrific deaths occurred when the immigrants were locked into the vehicle and left there for hours without sufficient ventilation, leaving many to suffocate.

In that case, the truck driver, Tyrone Williams, was sentenced to 34 years in prison for conspiracy and transporting illegal immigrants. He had faced a possible death sentence. Besides Williams 10 other people were implicated in the case, with each being given sentences ranging from 14 months to 23 years in prison.

During one of the most dramatic testimonies in the trial, one of the survivors in the trailer truck said that the 5-year-old Mexican boy died in his father's arms, crying "Daddy, daddy, I'm dying."

In another incident in just April, nine Mexicans died in another accident near the border after the driver of a minivan, with 18 people inside, crashed while attempting to escape from the border control.

However, even though smuggling immigrants across land is the most common method, many others attempt to get through to the United States by being smuggled via sea. This method incidentally is even more dangerous.

In October 2011, two Mexican immigrants were found dead in the ocean close to San Diego. Border patrol agents chased and captured 14 other Mexicans who were aboard a boat, according to the authorities at the time. Eleven of them were badly injured and one had hypothermia.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, sea smuggling arrests in Southern California doubled in 2009 to 867. However, arrests dropped to about 630 in 2010 as federal prosecutors commenced a policy of convicting not only smugglers, but also passengers, with felonies.

Despite the dangers involved in crossing the border illegally many remained undeterred, seeing a route into the United States as their only option to improve their lives and the lives of their loved ones. In short, despite knowing the dangers, they believe it is a risk worth taking, such is the desperate situation they find themselves in.

Dianna Castillo, who witnessed the scene at the car crash in Texas said, "It's just sad. They come here to live a better life and end up losing it."

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