Border Patrol agents have responded to more than 10,000 rescue migrant calls so far this year, in comparison to 3,400 in 2017.
ARIZONA, USA — Securing the U.S.-Mexico border has led to Border Patrol agents responding to an unprecedented number of rescue calls from distressed migrants.
The most recent data from Customs and Border Protection shows agents have assisted 10,528 migrants along the southern border who were out of water, had a medical emergency or couldn’t walk anymore. That’s compared to 3,417 in 2017.
In Arizona, the numbers have decreased in one CBP sector while increased in the other.
Rescues in the Tucson sector, which covers 262 border miles, decreased from 757 to 225 so far this year.
In comparison to the Yuma sector, which covers 126 border miles and reported six rescue calls four years ago, is now reporting 376 this time around.
“Back in June, when we had the tremendous heatwave, we were averaging 40 911 calls a day of people that were stranded,” said Jesus Vasavilbaso, a Border Patrol agent and Public Information Officer for the Tucson sector.
Vasavilbaso said the newly-built $15 billion border wall has helped the agency’s mission to “secure the border,” but people have continued to migrate despite deadly conditions.
In July, 212,762 people attempted to unlawfully enter the U.S. – making it a 21-year high. But, of those, only 154,288 were crossing for the first time.
CBP data shows 27% of the total July numbers involved individuals who had at least one prior encounter with agents in the previous 12 months.
“We’re here protecting the border but also attending all these 911 calls and emergencies that people have,” Vasavilbaso said.
According to Yuma Borders, a non-profit that tracks migrant deaths across Arizona, nearly 150 bodies have been recovered so far this year. They report 2020 was the deadliest year with 227 deaths.
“We don’t want anybody to get hurt, that’s for sure,” Vasavilbaso said. “We are human too, and we feel for them. When it comes to a medical emergency, immigration is the last thing we think about. We think about helping people, but at the end of the day we have to enforce immigration laws.”
Vasavilbaso said out of the 3,700 agents that work in the Tucson sector, 230 are EMTs and about 20 paramedics.
The construction of the new border wall led to roads being constructed along the structure. Vasavilbaso said that has helped them cut their response time from one hour to just five minutes when they respond to emergencies in rocky mountain terrain.
“Our number one priority is to protect the American people, to protect our borders, but then at the same time, while we are doing our job, it can become humanitarian [work] from one minute to another,” he said.
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