IMMIGRATION

Drownings along Rio Grande spike as immigrants wade into weed-choked canals to avoid detection

  • In this Feb. 24, 2015 photo, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine agents patrol along the Rio Grande on the Texas-Mexico border near Rio Grande City, Texas. Drowning deaths have spiked since last fall as a surge of law enforcement along the Mexico border prompts immigrants, desperate to avoid detection by a surge of law enforcement, to choose more dangerous and remote crossings into South Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

    In this Feb. 24, 2015 photo, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine agents patrol along the Rio Grande on the Texas-Mexico border near Rio Grande City, Texas. Drowning deaths have spiked since last fall as a surge of law enforcement along the Mexico border prompts immigrants, desperate to avoid detection by a surge of law enforcement, to choose more dangerous and remote crossings into South Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)  (The Associated Press)

  • EDS NOTE: GRAPHIC CONTENT: In this Feb. 24, 2015 photo, Mexican officials examine a body, lower center in the water, discovered by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine while on patrol near the Texas-Mexico border, in Rio Grande City, Texas. Five bodies were found at the scene. Drowning deaths have spiked since last fall as a surge of law enforcement along the Mexico border prompts immigrants, desperate to avoid detection by a surge of law enforcement, to choose more dangerous and remote crossings into South Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

    EDS NOTE: GRAPHIC CONTENT: In this Feb. 24, 2015 photo, Mexican officials examine a body, lower center in the water, discovered by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine while on patrol near the Texas-Mexico border, in Rio Grande City, Texas. Five bodies were found at the scene. Drowning deaths have spiked since last fall as a surge of law enforcement along the Mexico border prompts immigrants, desperate to avoid detection by a surge of law enforcement, to choose more dangerous and remote crossings into South Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Feb. 24, 2015 file aerial photo, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent smooths a dirt road along the Rio Grande River on the Texas-Mexico border, near Rio Grande City, Texas. Drowning deaths have spiked since last fall as a surge of law enforcement along the Mexico border prompts immigrants, desperate to avoid detection by a surge of law enforcement, to choose more dangerous and remote crossings into South Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

    FILE - In this Feb. 24, 2015 file aerial photo, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent smooths a dirt road along the Rio Grande River on the Texas-Mexico border, near Rio Grande City, Texas. Drowning deaths have spiked since last fall as a surge of law enforcement along the Mexico border prompts immigrants, desperate to avoid detection by a surge of law enforcement, to choose more dangerous and remote crossings into South Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)  (The Associated Press)

More immigrants have been drowning in the Rio Grande over the last six months.

Authorities say that's because immigrants are choosing more dangerous crossings into South Texas to avoid detection. Many of the bodies have been found in the weed-choked irrigation canals that feed into the Rio Grande.

The Border Patrol has responded by expanding its search-and-rescue teams to monitor the area.

The Rio Grande Valley has seen at least 16 drownings since October, and nearly a third of them were in the canals. The tally is only five short of the number of deaths reported from October 2013 to September.

Mission Fire Chief Rene Lopez Jr. says his rescue team would normally recover one body a month from canals. In January and February it was about one a week.