Arizona Heat Wave To Prove Dangerous For Migrants, Says Border Patrol

A rescue beacon near the border.
A Border Patrol agent walks past a rescue beacon in Texas. Reuters

 

A high pressure system expected to bring extraordinarily hot temperatures to parts of the US West and Southwest this weekend could have dangerous consequences for migrants who try to cross into the United States on foot.  FronterasDesk reports that almost 100 people have been found dead in 2013 in Arizona's deserts.  In recent weeks the US Border Patrol's Search, Trauma and Rescue Unit (BORSTAR), a unit of volunteer border agents who are trained to provide assistance to people in distress, have rescued hundreds of people from the remote areas in states along the US-Mexico border - almost 200 in the past month alone.  With temperatures which could near 130 degrees in some parts of the desert Southwest, where the worst of the heat is forecast, the trauma unit expects a busy weekend.

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"If you're hovering above 100 degrees, once those cooling mechanisms stop you're gonna be up in the 106s 107s, at that point you're actually killing tissue, cells are dying. And it just starts snowballing from there," agent Gerry Carrasco told FronterasDesk while at work near the border in Southern Arizona.

The Border Patrol also announced in response to the forecast that it would bring in more agents than usual. 

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Most of the calls to the trauma unit come from migrants who dial 911.  Some of them are abandoned by the "coyotes" paid to guide groups across the border after they are injured or prove unable to keep up.  Exact figures as to how many succumb to dehydration and exhaustion are not easily ascertained. 

"You're just there to do as much as you can and if I can go home at the end of the day knowing that I did everything that I could," Carrasco said. "I don't say that I get jaded, but you learn how to handle it. And you learn how to cope with it. You have to learn how to cope with it. Or else you go crazy. You won't be able to last very long."

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"For the smuggling organizations, this is a business," Tucson Sector Border Patrol Agent Shelton McKenzie told Arizona news KTAR. "In order for them to get paid, they must attempt to cross their product [illegal immigrants] through the desert."

"The Sonoran desert is extremely hot. A lot of these migrants who are traversing through the desert, can never carry enough food or water to make the journey. That's when migrants and smugglers alike find themselves perishing in the desert," he added.

 

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David Iaconangelo is a Brooklyn-based writer and translator.  Formerly editor of ZafraLit, a blog of new short fiction from Cuba.  He has lived in and reported from various Latin American countries.