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121 immigrants surrender to Border Patrol agents near Lukeville

A group of 121 immigrants turned themselves in to Border Patrol agents on Saturday in a remote part of the Organ Pipe Cactus wildlife refuge, one of five large groups, totaling 600 people, found in Arizona's western desert since July 28 by federal officials. 

The group was found near the Senita Basin, about six miles north of Lukeville, Ariz., said a spokesman for the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector.

The group included 111 people from Guatemala, including adults and children, while another 10 were from El Salvador, the spokesman said. 

From July 28 to Sept. 8., U.S. officials have encountered 600 people traveling in five large groups through the remote desert of Organ Pipe Cactus National Wildlife Refuge, a 330,000-acre wildlife refuge that surrounds Lukeville, Ariz. and State Route 85, about 110 miles southwest of Tucson. 

The people found include:

A group of 163 people apprehended on Sept. 4 several miles west of Lukeville's port of entry, hailing from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Among the group were both adults and children, some as young as 4 months, said a spokesman with Tucson Sector Border Patrol in a news release.

A group of 128 people found on Aug. 17 that Border Patrol agents said had been "abandoned by their smugglers" several miles west of the port. The group included adults and children, some as young as four, from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico. 

A group of 103 people that went previously unreported were apprehended on Aug. 28. 

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And, a group of 95 people found after a National Park Service ranger spotted them approximately eight miles west of the border crossing, which "consisted of multiple families," including a three-month-old infant, as well as someone aged 60.

Just to the west, in the Yuma Sector, agents are also encountering an increasing number of immigrants traveling as families. In just a few days, agents from the Yuma-area found 188 people traveling in 23 groups, most of them originally from Guatemala. 

"This is where our law enforcement mission quickly turns from enforcing immigration laws to preserving life by ensuring the welfare and wellbeing of these migrant families," said Tucson Sector Chief Patrol Agent Rodolfo Karisch. "Transnational criminal organizations are exploiting these immigrant families and demonstrating their blatant disregard for human life."

The area around Lukeville includes some of the state's most remote terrain, linking up to Mexico's own El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, with an additional 666,000-acres of wilderness that butts up against the Arizona-Mexico border and goes south to the Gulf of California.

And, area remains a deadly corridor for immigrants attempting to cross Arizona's deserts. In the area that surrounds the wildlife refuge, the remains of 17 people have been found so far in 2018. Since 2001, the bodies of 212 people have been discovered by officials and humanitarian groups.

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

A group of 121 people, most of them originally from Guatemala, who turned themselves in to Ajo-area Border Patrol agents on Saturday.