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Ajo BP agents apprehend 240 people in 48 hours

CBP plans $324M project to replace 'pedestrian' barriers near Yuma and Lukeville

U.S. Customs and Border Protection will begin building five miles of fence along the southern border of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Wildlife Refuge, as people from Central America continue to cross into the United States, and turning themselves in to seek asylum. 

In November, Border Patrol announced plans to build five miles of "pedestrian replacement wall" in the area as part of a larger contract to build "upgraded tactical infrastructure" in the Yuma and Tucson Sectors. 

CBP awarded a contract in November 2018 to Barnard Construction Company to build 32 miles of "Primary Pedestrian Replacement Wall" in Yuma and Tucson Sectors at a cost of $324 million. 

The project is slated to begin in April 2019. 

The moves comes as Ajo-area agents continue to encounter large groups of people, largely families from Central America, traveling into through remote wilderness near Lukeville, Ariz., following a six month pattern that began this summer.

In a 48-hour period, agents from the Ajo station encountered 240 people from Central America, traveling in three large groups west of the Lukeville Port of Entry, about 110 miles southwest of Tucson, authorities said.

The area includes the Organ Pipe Cactus National Wildlife Refuge, a 330,000-acre sanctuary that surrounds Lukeville and State Route 85. Mexico's Highway 2 runs parallel to the U.S. border in this region, and while the area is heavily crisscrossed by roads used by patrolling agents, and remote sensors, the border itself is marked by a "bollard" style fence designed to block vehicles. 

On Sunday evening, agents found 80 people from Guatemala, including men, women and children in the desert west of the Lukeville crossing, said Rob Daniels, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection.

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During the night, agents encountered two other large groups, one that included 113 family, and another group of 49. Both groups including families traveling from Central America, Daniels said. 

All of the people were "found to be in good health" and were transported to the Ajo Border Patrol station for processing, he said. 

A Tucson-based environmental group blasted the construction of new barriers. 

"This border-wall replacement project threatens wildlife and cultural resources in protected wilderness areas,” said Allison Melton, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. "The contract was awarded without any public input. It’s a slap in the face to local communities that oppose border militarization and it’s an enormous waste of taxpayer money," she said. 

Over the last two years, CBP has replaced or added new fencing to several areas along the U.S.-Mexico border, including a section near Santa Teresa, New Mexico and Naco, Arizona, but the agency has not used elements from the prototypes that were built in San Diego in 2017 while President Donald Trump pushed hard for new concrete and steel walls. 

Instead, the current construction is focused on standard bollard fencing that pops up across the state, and is easily visible in places like Nogales, Arizona and Yuma. 

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A group of people arrested near Lukeville Arizona this weekend.