Resilience Refugees

Migrant women freeze to death in California mountains

women migrants immigrants us mexico border crossing freeze frozen to death exposure dead men coyotes smugglers san diego laguna mountains smowstorm
BILL WECHTER/AFP via Getty Images

Story at a glance

  • Three migrant women died from exposure while crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • Two men traveling with them say they were caught in a snowstorm in the Laguna Mountains, east of San Diego.
  • The two men were arrested for illegal crossing and may be smugglers.

Three migrant women were caught in a snowstorm and froze to death on Monday in California while crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and The Sacramento Bee

The women, who were traveling with two other men, could not flee from the storm on the Laguna Mountain near the Cuyapaipe Indian Reservation around 2 p.m. 

Agents first came across the men, reportedly aged 22 and 37, who then told Border Patrol that the three women were stranded in the mountains and needed help. Both men were Mexican immigrants and suspected to be smugglers. 

The men were eventually arrested for illegal entry to the U.S. and were taken to a processing center. 

A rescue team was dispatched to locate the women and found them using a helicopter search at about 5 p.m. Two of the women were found dead when rescuers arrived. The third woman was reportedly found conscious but died at around 7:30 p.m., despite responders’ efforts. 

A press release from the Border Patrol newsroom states that due to the severity of the weather, the bodies were not able to be transported from the mountains until Tuesday. 

This incident that resulted in the tragic loss of lives was totally avoidable,” Aaron Heitke, deputy chief patrol agent for San Diego, said in a release. “We have said it many times, do not place your life or the lives of your loved ones in the hands of ruthless smugglers.”

According to Border Patrol officials, the two men may have been smugglers who helped the women cross into the U.S. from Mexico for a price. 

Heitke was reportedly “proud of the efforts of agents and rescuers” who attempted to save the women.