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KFOX14 Investigates: On the front lines, US Border Patrol performs humanitarian role

KFOX14 Investigates: On the front lines, US Border Patrol performs humanitarian role

This week, politicians and pundits debated whether those in the approaching caravan of Central American immigrants may carry disease and pose a health risk to the United States.

KFOX14 Investigates found out preventing foreign diseases from entering our borders and providing first aid is something Border Patrol agents do daily.

It’s something KFOX14 Investigates saw during our time on the front lines this summer.

Agents are seeing a rise in families and unaccompanied children willingly surrendering.

The agency says family unit apprehensions are up 42 percent from 2016 to 2017.

Elizabeth, from Guatemala, turned herself in with her daughter.

"To give my daughter a better life and go to another country to work and struggle rather than be killed,” she told us when asked why she came to the U.S.

Chief Aaron Hull, of the Border Patrol's El Paso Sector, said there are several "pull factors" drawing immigrants to the U.S. that haven't been addressed in Washington.

"A backlogged immigration system, lack of detention space," said Hull.

That attracts people to our borders in the thousands.

"Even if we are caught, we will go through a process, but eventually we will be released pending a hearing we may never attend," Hull said of the mentality many crossing the border have.

We also met a 16-year-old from Honduras. She walked through the brush to turn herself in.

We weren't allowed to record our interview with her because she's a minor, but she told us she's traveled alone to escape gangs that wanted to prostitute her.

She is scared and shaking.

She said she’s hoping to be reunited with her sister, who lives in Dallas.

It's a desire for many coming from Central America.

The rise in those seeking safety adds a humanitarian aspect to the agents' law enforcement mission.

Hull said in addition to criminals and drugs, agents try to prevent foreign diseases from entering the country, like tuberculosis and scabies.

"Those are things we stop from entering American communities, from entering children's schools. There's a cost associated with it, but it's worth it,” said Hull.

Elizabeth told us her daughter, Jamie, is sick.

It could be chicken pox or scabies.

"My daughter is sick. I left quickly. I barely had time to buy the clothes I'm wearing,” said Elizabeth.

Agents are often the first to find sick and injured migrants. The journey to get here is dangerous. The terrain is rugged.

The day before our ridealong, agents found the body of a woman near Mt. Cristo Rey. She fell to her death.

"If someone gets hurt, someone's sick, slower than the rest of the group, then they leave them,” said Agent Tom Schwieger.

In the field, agents can be stationed hours from the nearest hospital. They are often the ones to provide first aid.

"Numerous times, we've encountered people with broken legs, broken femurs,” said Schwieger.

"We have to care for their needs," said Hull.

Medical needs are only expected to rise as more families arrive at the border.

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