TUCSON -- U.S. Border Patrol agents assigned to the Tucson region have saved 177 people during the last 30 days in the southern Arizona desert as summer temperatures have reach perilous levels, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials.
Officials said agents rescued 52 of the 177 just in the last week, when temperatures soared near 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
The recent rescues by the Tucson sector of the Border Patrol reflect a larger trend. Agents from the sector have performed 372 rescues during the current fiscal year. During the same period last year, there were 265 rescues, according to federal data.
Those rescued are suspected of crossing into the United States illegally. It’s physically impossible for the average person to carry enough water to survive such punishing heat, Border Patrol agents report.
“Smugglers convince migrants that they will only walk a short distance. In reality, they are forced to walk long distances within short periods of time. Those unable to keep up are left behind to die,” stated Border Patrol Agent Brent M. Cagen.
Death rates among people trying to cross into the country illegally are at an all-time high in the southern Arizona desert despite a lull in illegal border crossings, according to data collected by the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner.
The deaths have probably increased because those who still choose to enter the country illegally are traveling for longer periods of time — mostly on foot — through more remote areas to avoid detection by border enforcement officials, according to a new report, a joint effort by the medical examiner’s office and University of Arizona’s Binational Migration Institute.