Border Patrol officials in the Tucson and Yuma Sectors say human smugglers are raking in profits while risking the lives of migrants moving in escalated numbers into Arizona.
Despite increased enforcement efforts, a summer of record-breaking temperatures, and other dangers inherent to the Arizona desert, human smugglers are crossing large numbers of migrant families and unaccompanied children into the U.S. Multiple areas along the border, including the Yuma and Ajo corridors, are being exploited, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials.
“This is a humanitarian crisis that is impacting border security,” Yuma Sector Chief Patrol Agent Anthony Porvaznik said in a written statement. “Criminal entities are lining their pockets while exploiting a vulnerable population, filling our stations and diverting our national security efforts.”
Officials say the new smuggling operations are a dangerous break from the past when migrant families and children would present themselves at ports of entry to request asylum. They are now being moved through remote areas of the desert where no physical barriers, or ineffective barriers, are in place to prevent illegal crossings.
“With no regard for the safety and well-being of these families, smugglers put their bottom line before human decency,” Joint Task Force West, Arizona Commander Rodolfo Karisch stated. “Tuesday we sent agents out to rescue 61 of these individuals from rising flood waters; and Wednesday, shortly after crossing the border, a mother in one of these groups passed away in front of her son.”
Human smugglers in northern Mexico are apparently learning from cartels operating south of the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo Sectors that when the border is flooded with migrant families and unaccompanied minors, Border Patrol resources are stressed. Cartels are then able to smuggle drugs and other “high-value human cargo” across the border with a greater opportunity for success.
During the past six weeks, Commander Karisch reports the following large groups of illegal immigrants apprehended in the Yuma and Tucson Sectors:
- Oct. 2 — Yuma Sector encountered 164 adults and children west of the San Luis Port of Entry.
- Sept. 25 — Ajo Station Border Patrol agents encountered 264 adults and children west of the Lukeville Port of Entry.
- Sept. 20 — Yuma Sector Border Patrol agents encountered 275 adults and children, 20 of whom had to be transported to the hospital to be treated for a range of conditions including: back and ankle injuries, lacerations, lice infestation, and impetigo.
- Sept. 16 — Ajo Station Border Patrol agents encountered 193 adults and children west of the Lukeville Port of Entry.
- Sept. 8 — Ajo Station Border Patrol agents encountered 121 adults and children near the Senita Basin north of Lukeville.
- Sept. 4 — Ajo Station Border Patrol agents encountered 163 adults and children west of Lukeville’s Port of Entry.
- Aug. 28 — Ajo Station Border Patrol agents encountered 103 adults and children west of Lukeville’s Port of Entry.
- Aug. 20 — Ajo Station agents encountered 128 illegal immigrants who had been abandoned by their smugglers.
Officials say the majority of migrants came to the U.S. illegally from Guatemala. They are reportedly headed to locations in Charleston, South Carolina; Oakland, California; and Homestead, Florida.
CBP officials interviewed the migrants and found similarities in persons encountered and their stated reasons for coming to the United States. “They are lied to by smugglers who make promises of assistance, financial gain, and protected immigration status,” officials stated. “According to migrants, smugglers are using coercive tactics to profit from vulnerable families.”