(CNSNews.com) -- On May 31, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) launched the first of a series of Spanish language videos designed to deter Central Americans already in the U.S. from having their relatives and friends smuggled into the country illegally.
The videos consist of testimonials by migrants who “voluntarily share their horrifying 1,600-mile journey to the north in the hands of human smugglers,” according to a CBP press release.
In one 60-second video entitled No Arriesgue Su Vida (“Don’t Risk Your Life”), an unnamed woman relates in Spanish her experience traveling to the U.S.
“When I left my home, I left crying and in agony because I was leaving my daughter behind, without knowing when I would return to see her again,” the woman says.
“You suffer a lot., You encounter people that try to sexually abuse you. Sometimes you travel in tractor trailer boxes unable to breathe. I felt great desperation because we were ten people locked and squeezed together.
“At the end of it all, nothing was like they say it would be,” the woman warns.
“She is an anonymous voice, one of thousands of Central American migrants, including unaccompanied children, who in recent years have endured a myriad of atrocities, sexual abuse, extortion, assault, kidnapping and exploitation in the hands of 'coyotes' or human smugglers,” CPB spokesman Jaime Ruiz said.
“Our target is families who have relatives in Central America and are about to send money to pay for the human smuggler or ‘coyote’. We want them to be aware of the dangers and hazards their relatives and their children traveling with them will be enduring in their 1,600-mile trek to the north,” Ruiz told CNSNews.com
“We know that California, Texas, Florida, New York and Washington, D.C., have the largest concentration of Central American communities. Relatives in the U.S. send from $5,000 up to $30,000 to finance the uncertain journey, and at the end the money is technically lost because, once the families get here, there are ‘no permisos’ (no permits) to stay in the U.S.,” Ruiz added.
The media campaign comes in response to the large influx of migrants, particularly unaccompanied minors, into the U.S. from Central America in recent years, and is in addition to CPB’s “messaging campaigns” in Central America and Mexico warning of the dangers of illegal border crossings.
In 2014, a record 68,541 unaccompanied minors and 68,445 “family unit subjects”--individuals crossing the border with a family member-- were apprehended crossing the border.
Although total apprehensions on the southwest border decreased from 479,371 in FY2014 to 331,333 in FY2015, CBP statistics indicate that 2016’s numbers - which are already beyond the surge levels seen in 2014 - will likely break records, according to Judicial Watch.
More than 6,100 migrants have died in recent years trying to illegally enter the U.S, according to CPB, despite the Border Patrol’s search and rescue efforts, which are credited with “saving the lives of more than 29,000 people at the Southwest border.”
The most common causes of deaths, which peak in the summer months, are heat stroke, dehydration and drowning.
However, the videos are only meant to discourage illegal, not legal immigration, Ruiz stated.
“The United States is, and will continue to be, a generous, welcoming country and the land of opportunity. The main objective of this effort is [to] inform those planning to cross illegally about the real dangers they will be facing.”
“The materials [do] not show a hostile America, but [are] rather a responsible action to prevent the unnecessary loss of human lives, many times children, in their attempt to cross illegally into the United States,” said Ruiz.
“If the life of one migrant is saved because he/she changed his/her mind about enduring the treacherous journey, this will definitely [be] worth all of our efforts.”