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By Miriam Raftery


Photo via U.S. Customs and Border Patrol: hole cut in border fence, where the ill-fated SUV is believed to have entered the U.S.


March 4, 2021 (Holtville) – The California Highway Patrol today released names of a dozen survivors of a horrific collision near Holtville on Tuesday when a semi-truck carrying a load of gravel struck a Ford Expedition SUV with 25 people inside. The crash killed 13 of them, including the driver of the SUV.

According to a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol statement, all of the SUV occupants are “suspected to have entered the U.S. illegally” along with a second vehicle seen on surveillance video leaving an area where a hole had been cut through the border fence. 


The Ford SUV had its seats removed, so passengers were not wearing seat belts and many were ejected onto the roadway after the big rig struck the SUV at the intersection of State Route 115 and Norrish Road near Holtville.


The other vehicle suspected of crossing through the border fence, a Chevrolet Suburban, caught fire near I-8 and State Route 115, but all 19 people in it were able to escape the flaming vehicle and were taken into custody by the Border Patrol.

The Border Patrol has denied any pursuit or effort to stop either vehicle, USA Today reports. Gregory Bovino, chief of the Border Patrol’s El Centro sector, offered prayers for the victims and their families.  He added, “Human smugglers have proven time and again they have little regard for human life. Those who may be contemplating crossing the border illegally should pause to think of the dangers that all too often end in tragedy tragedies our Border Patrol Agents and first responders are unfortunately very familiar with."

Names of those who died have not yet been released, though the Mexican government has indicated that at least 10 of the 12 who died were Mexican nationals and another was from Guatemala, per the Guatemalan Consulate in Los Angeles. All of the deceased were adults, though the ages of those in the SUV ranged from 15 to 53.At least one had family in Mexico, according to the Mexican Consulate.


The California Highway Patrol has released names of 11 people who were injured, their country of origin, and their conditions. The twelfth injured passenger, a 15-year-old girl with major injuries, has not yet been identified.  Two of the injured were flown to Scripps Memorial Hospital in San Diego.


Ford Passenger Information (Name, Age, Gender, Residence, Level of Injury)


UC San Diego Medical Center, San Diego


Rene Zelando

30-year-old Male

Nayarit, Mexico

Major Injuries


Berti Orozco

21-year-old Female

Guatemala City, Guatemala

Major Injuries


Zeterina Mendoza

33-year-old Female

Guerrero, Mexico

Major Injuries


Camilio Rodriguez

44-year-old Male

Santa Maria Del Oro, Mexico

Major Injuries

Scripps Mercy Hospital, San Diego


Jose Martinez

16-year-old Male

Guerrero, Mexico

Major Injuries


Berlin Cardona

46-year-old Female

Guatemala City, Guatemala

Major Injuries


El Centro Regional Medical Center, El Centro


Darlin Liliana Robledo

20-year-old Female

Tapachula, Mexico

Moderate Injuries


Pioneers Memorial Hospital, Brawley


Avelardo Nava

18-year-old Male

Guerrero, Mexico

Moderate Injuries


Manuel Rufino

39-year-old Male

Oaxaca, Mexico

Moderate Injuries


Desert Regional Medical Center, Palm Springs


Jorge Gutierrez Martinez

24-year-old Male


Major Injuries


Esteban Montiel

22-year-old Male


Major Injuries


Jane Doe

15-year-old Female


Major Injuries


Only passenger #3 was identified with her photo identification.  All other passengers were identified by stated name, date of birth, and residence. 


The tragedy has made headlines nationwide, reigniting a debate over immigration.


The section of border fence breached had not yet been replaced under the Trump administration, which did install 30 miles of a new border wall fortified with bollards. Conservatives have long clamored for more secure border walls to prevent illegal immigration, though in practice, border fences and walls have often pushed migrants into more dangerous terrain and smugglers into more desperate attempts to cross the border.

But Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, whose district includes Holtville, called for passage of comprehensive immigration reforms by Congress. In a statement, he says, “Our broken immigration system is a humanitarian, public and economic crisis impacting communities on both sides of the border,” he said. “Tragedies like this place wider public attention on the dark realities of our immigration struggle in the United States and the danger immigrant families face for a chance at a better life.”

Many residents of Mexico have long crossed the border in Imperial Valley on a daily basis to pick crops in the agricultural area, though a United Farmworkers spokesman told Associated Press (AP) that the crash victims were not farmworkers.  The Border Patrol is conducting an investigation into suspected smuggling of the vicitms.


Tekandi Paniagua at the Guatemalan Consul told AP that migrants have relied on misinformation. “They have to know that the border remains just as guarded as it has always been,” he cautioned.


According to the Wall Street Journal, the SUV was so overloaded that it would have been difficult to brake or steer.


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Why do we do this?

Fences are not immigration policies, and you can't fence the Pacific Ocean, which has become another common and largely unfettered route. Nations get to have entry policies and control over who is in their country. Hasn't anyone considered that if you actually want to control immigration, that you do it primarily with employment law? And otherwise let people in pretty easily with a tourist visa (and background checks) so they can shop and go on vacations, bringing legitimate business into our country? And you just enforce if employers illegally hire tourists. The ready availability of work in the US, and our very real accommodation of this twisted system, there is the actual problem. But no. We prefer our shady under the table model of American businesses that depend on that vast majority of crossers who do make it in, regularly. Statistically, every crosser is successful by their third try, but the vast majority make it on the first try. So in reality, it is only the dead (and a few who give up) who do not make it all the way! We tragically let our transparently stupid border theater - designed to appease idiots who still can't quite figure out that meat packers still get workers somehow - include some "acceptable" number of awful deaths while we spend billions of dollars of taxpayer money on a show, in which we play the roll of waiting in line on I8 so we believe it is a successful effort. (Btw we have also have created the largest union in the country.) All because we can't tune into the reality channel and get smart about it. Seriously America, this is ghoulish, evil, wasteful and well beneath who we quite falsely believe we are both intellectually and morally. We have become dullardly murderers.

I'd love to debate this,

but I've learned it's impossible to have an intelligent conversation with anyone who believes securing our borders is a bad thing.

I'd love to debate this,

but I have learned that debating is impossible with someone who has low reading comprehension. If you could read what I wrote, you would understand it as a supporting secure borders though practical policies that take reality into account. Instead of having border theater to pleasure members of our white supremacist party with a few dead bodies, while simultaneously letting most everyone who wants to work into the country, which is all we have ever done, fence or no. Read it again. Everyone gets in except a few dead, the labor needs of our corporations are *always* fully met with undocumented immigration. You have been losing a confidence game masterfully played against you, all the while genuinely grateful for the sparkle they put in your eyes. You are a mark. Our policy is ghoulish, and I will agree with you in advance, Democrats own large parts of the stupid tragedy too.


"Conservatives have long clamored for more secure border" You make that sound like it's a bad thing, something we should be ashamed of. I could think of dozens of better verbs to use in this sentence, but you chose this one. It's become increasingly clear that you are incapable of writing an article without showing political bias, or in a nonpartisan view. You should be ashamed.

Do you even use a dictionary before spouting off, 8East?

There is nothing biased in the factual statement "Conservatives hvae long clamored for a more secure border."  That is not an opinion, it is a fact. 

The word "clamor" means a loud protest or demand. The example given in the Cambridge Dictionary is people clamoring for more security after a bombing--yep, just like clamoring for a more secure border.  There is nothing negative in the term.


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