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BP apprehends 306 Central Americans in 24 hours in Tucson Sector

CBP plans new barriers from San Diego to Yuma

Tucson Sector Border Patrol agents apprehended 306 people from Central America near the U.S.-Mexico border in a 24-hour period this week, authorities said. 

The apprehensions follow a long-term trend as large groups of Central Americans, including families traveling with children, have turned themselves over the Border Patrol in bids to seek asylum in the United States. 

As U.S. Customs and Border Protection has tried to limit how many people enter through the U.S. via recognized border crossings, Border Patrol has seen an increasing number of people crossing through the desert. 

In some cases, people are clambering over bollard fences or slipping beneath metal panels, or in the case of Lukeville, Ariz., walking to remote stretches beyond the port where the border wall gives way to "Normandy" barriers intended to stop only vehicles.

On Wednesday night, Ajo-area agents apprehended 242 people about 15 miles west of Lukeville, about 110 miles southwest of Tucson, part the Organ Pipe Cactus National Wildlife Refuge, a 330,000-acre sanctuary that surrounds Lukeville and State Route 85, said a spokesman for Tucson Sector Border Patrol. 

On Thursday morning, agents operating from the Casa Grande station were patrolling the border on the Tohono O'odham Nation, and encountered a group of 64 migrants who gave themselves up, the spokesman said. 

Both groups were comprised of family units, he said, including children and pregnant women, largely from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. 

During an interview and observation, Border Patrol agents identified one pregnant woman and four children who required immediate care, he said. 

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All five people were taken to a nearby hospital in Goodyear where they were treated and released back to Border Patrol custody, he said. "Subjects not requiring emergency medical attention were transported to Tucson for further processing and medical evaluation by Border Patrol paramedics," he said. 

While at the station in Tucson, agents said that nine children, ages 1 to 13, were suffering "flu-like symptoms" and were taken to local hospital, he said. 

In the last week, the agency has been hammered by members of Congress and the public over the death of 7-year-old Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin, who died after her and her father were in Border Patrol custody at a forward-operating base in the boot-heel of New Mexico, about 90 miles south of Interstate 10. 

Following her death, CBP announced new guidelines on how it would report the deaths of people in their custody, and the Inspector General's office said that it would investigate. 

New border barriers announced

As the agency struggles to deal with the movement of family groups, the agency appears focused on upgrading border barriers to keep people from crossing into the United States to ask for asylum. 

On Friday, the agency announced that CBP and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will build 15 miles of "primary pedestrian fencing," and 14 miles of "secondary fencing," in California, including the San Diego, Yuma and El Centro sectors, replacing older barriers with a new 30-foot high bollard fence. 

The new contract comes even as the White House has demanded more money for border defenses, sinking an earlier "clean resolution" to fund the government, and setting up the possibility that the federal government will shut down over $5 billion for additional walls.  

The contract is worth around $287 million, and construction is slated to begin in San Diego in February 2019, while the replacement of pedestrian barriers will begin in July 2019. 

The project will include the replacement of older pedestrian barriers with a 30-foot steel bollard wall, including 11 miles in Calexico, three miles in Tecate, and one mile in Andrade, Calif., at a cost of $156 million, with another $68 million in the contract and approximately $88 million for "unawarded options." 

The agency has slated another $131 million for barriers in the San Diego-Tijuana urban area, including the replacement of older "secondary barriers" with a 30-foot bollard wall. There, CBP has ear-marked $131 million for a secondary wall project, including approximately $101 million, and another $30 million in "unawarded options." 

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"These two important barriers, in combination with a patrol road and technology, create an enforcement zone for the USBP as part of the border wall system.  Given the high-density population in San Diego-Tijuana urban area, the stronger infrastructure is critically important," said a CBP spokesman in a statement. 

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. 

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A group of migrants were apprehended near Ajo, part of two large groups who turned themselves in to Border Patrol on Wednesday night through Thursday morning.