Illegal migrants scaled a 30-foot border wall and made it across two busy Texas highways before a 15-year-old member of their group was struck by a car as they crossed a third Wednesday.
David Herrera — who was driving the car that hit the boy on Interstate 10 in El Paso — had swerved in an attempt to avoid the fleeing migrants. He then pulled over, so traumatized he could barely speak.
“Once I hit him, I just stopped over here,” said Herrera, 63, indicating a median strip where he sat in his car. Herrera told The Post he lives in nearby New Mexico and was taking his wife to work at the time of the accident on the 60 mph highway Wednesday morning.
The boy, from Chiapas, Mexico, broke his leg in the accident and was rushed by an emergency response team to a local hospital. The deep dent on the driver’s side of Herrera’s grey GMC was streaked with the teenager’s blood.
“There are parts of Texas where you have to worry about hitting a deer,” said one observer at the scene of the accident. “Here in El Paso, we worry about hitting people running across the border.”
The Post observed the aftermath of the accident during a pre-dawn ride-along with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), a state agency that comprises state troopers and the storied Texas Rangers, who famously hunted fugitives Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, among others, in the 1930s.
In their tan cowboy hats and shiny black boots, DPS agents in this border city crack down on “stash houses” set up by human smugglers and drug traffickers who transport thousands of migrants and drugs, such as fentanyl, heroin and methamphetamines across the southern border. The Texas agency works alongside federal Border Patrol identifying groups of migrants sneaking across the border using their air support unit and even undercover operatives.
On Wednesday morning, DPS agents helped the injured teenager, who was not identified because he is a minor. He was traveling with a small group of migrants who scaled the foot border fence in Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, then ran over the three highways, including Interstate 10 — the world’s widest motorway.
“It’s our first time trying to cross the border,” said Alvaro de la Cruz, a 23-year-old farm laborer from Chiapas who was traveling with the boy who got hit on Wednesday. “We are just trying to make a better life.”
Wearing muddy black shoes, his sweater covered with grass from crawling through scrub, de la Cruz sat on the highway median waiting to be processed by Border Patrol agents who had arrived on the scene at Marker 19, on Interstate 10 East.
In addition to handing over the other four migrants who had made the highway crossings to waiting Border Patrol agents for processing, DPS agents were pursuing one of his traveling companions who had sprained his ankle and lost his shoes, according to surveillance from a DPS helicopter.
“When you think about it, there are so many obstacles that these people need to cross,” said Robert Almonte, a former deputy chief of the El Paso Police Department who accompanied The Post on the DPS ride-along. “It’s like obstacles in a video game, but this is real life.”
Highway accidents are affecting dozens of migrants who embark on the perilous crossings. Earlier this month, video posted to social media showed more than a dozen migrants hopping a border fence and running into oncoming traffic on a busy Texas highway.
In El Paso, where the mayor declared a state of emergency last week, DPS agents have increased their shifts from 10 to 12 hours to crack down on the huge surge of thousands of migrants the city is seeing.
“My guys are working long shifts and working holidays because they see it as part of their mission to protect our state and protect our country,” said Jose Sanchez, DPS Regional Director West Texas Region who oversees 36 counties stretching over more than 61,000 square miles.
A Navy veteran and former narcotics investigator, Sanchez joined DPS in 1994. “Many are from El Paso and they love protecting their state and their country because the criminal enterprises we go after here are a danger to the whole country,” he added.