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BP agents detain 103, including families & children, as part of 'alarming' trend in remote Az desert

For the second time in February, Ajo-area Border Patrol agents encountered a large group of people from Central America after they crossed into the United States west of Lukeville, Ariz., part of a months-long surge that the agency has called "alarming." 

On Monday morning, a group of 103 people crossed into the United States and surrendered to agents, authorities said. Most are likely going to ask for asylum in this country.

Earlier this month, on Feb. 7, Border Patrol agents in the area encountered the largest group in the area yet, when 325 people surrendered to agents after they crossed the U.S.-Mexico border.

Agents spotted the group during the "early morning hours" through "mobile surveillance technology," as they walked under or over the post-and-rail fence designed to stop vehicles, said a spokesman with Tucson Sector Border Patrol.

The group included 81 people from Guatemala and 22 from Honduras, the agent said. Among the group was 59 children, including a one-year-old baby. Most of the children were traveling as part of a family unit, however, eight were unaccompanied children, the agent said.

The agency could not provide specifics on the entire group, the agent said, however "the overwhelming majority of persons apprehended in that area will ask for some sort 'protected Status' during their journey in the immigration system," the spokesman said. 

In a release, the agency complained that a "lack of infrastructure" in the area was "continually exploited." 

"In the last few months, Border Patrol agents have seen an alarming surge of large family groups crossing the border illegally at the direction of human smugglers," the agent said.

The group entered in a region where hundreds of people have crossed into the United States, west of Lukeville, a small border town that is surrounded by the 330,000-acre Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, about 110 miles southwest of Tucson.

Since last June, Border Patrol agents have encountered 1,869 people in the area, according to reports compiled by the TucsonSentinel.com based on releases from the agency.

Similarly, agents in the adjacent Yuma Sector have encountered large groups, including a group of 376 people who dug beneath the border wall east of San Luis, Ariz., and walked along a patrol road until agents arrived. 

Advocates and humanitarian groups have argued that U.S. officials have exacerbated a growing problem at the border by limiting the number of migrants who can seek asylum at ports of entries, and people are crossing in remote regions instead, miles from the nearest food, water and medical care. 

From October to January, the number of family units crossing into the United States through the Tucson Sector has increased 231 percent over the same period last fiscal year, according to agency statistics. A year earlier, the agency faced a "surge" of 142 percent from 2017.

Overall, more than 8,797 people have come into the U.S. states in 53 large groups, arriving in not only the Yuma and Tucson Sectors, but also the El Paso Sector, which covers the border from the Arizona-New Mexico border to just past the city of El Paso, and the Rio Grande Valley Sector, which covers the southern tip of Texas to Louisiana.

CBP said on Twitter that January border statistics show a "sustained, high volume of families and unaccompanied children from Central America illegally crossing along the SW Border." This year, Border Patrol agents encountered 58 "large groups" of 100 people or more, compared to only 13 a year earlier. 

This number has grown as BP agents in Arizona and New Mexico have come across at least three more groups. 

And, apprehension data from CBP bears this out. In January, nearly 61 percent of apprehensions were either family units or unaccompanied children, though this is slightly down from December.

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1 comment on this story

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34 comments
Feb 22, 2019, 11:11 am
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Why are they detained instead of deposited on the other side of the border…. or flown back to their home country?

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Click image to enlarge

Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

A remote stretch of desert on the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument where hundreds of people, including families with children, have crossed into the United States to seek asylum.