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Group of 128 suspected border-crossers detained near Ajo

Border Patrol agents operating near Ajo, Ariz., apprehended more than 200 people in two large groups in the last month, including a group of 128 people encountered several miles west of Lukeville on Friday, authorities said. 

Agents patrolling near the international border fence found the group, who were "presumably brought to the border by human smugglers who remained in Mexico," said a spokesman with Tucson Sector Border Patrol. 

The group was found on the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the 330,000-acre wildlife refuge that surrounds Lukeville and State Route 85, about 109 miles southwest of Tucson. 

All were in "good health," the agent said. 

The group including both adults and children, some as young as four, from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico, he said. 

Among the group were several adults who had been previously charged with immigration violations, he said. 

A few weeks earlier, Ajo station agents found a group of 95 people in the same area. 

On July 28, agents from the Ajo Station received a call from a National Park Service ranger about a "large group" of people approximately 8 miles west of the port of entry. 

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Agents found 95 people traveling as a group, which "consisted of multiple families," the spokesman said, including a three-month-old infant, as well as someone aged 60. Among them were foreign nationals from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, the spokesman said. 

Both groups were transported to the Ajo Border Patrol station for processing and turned over to Enforcement Removal Operations, a part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Smuggling groups "exploit the vulnerability of foreign nationals with false promises of legal status and encourage dangerous crossing methods, placing their safety at risk," the spokesman said, noting that the agency continues to warn people about the "dangers of entering the U.S. illegally" especially during the summer months when desert temperatures can exceed 120 degrees. 

The area around Lukeville is 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. 

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Immigrants found in the desert waiting for a van after their arrest by Ajo-area Border Patrol agents on July 28.


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