Mi­grant groups are aban­doned in Ari­zona desert

San Francisco Chronicle - - NATION - By Anita Snow Anita Snow is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

PHOENIX — Smug­glers in re­cent weeks have been aban­don­ing large groups of Gu­atemalan and other Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants in Ari­zona’s harsh cac­tus-stud­ded Sono­ran Desert near the bor­der with Mex­ico, alarm­ing Bor­der Pa­trol of­fi­cials who say the trend is putting hun­dreds of chil­dren at risk.

Col­lec­tively, more than 1,400 mi­grants have been left by smug­glers in the broil­ing desert — or in one case in a drench­ing thun­der­storm — in re­mote ar­eas by the bor­der since Aug. 20. One group was as large as 275 peo­ple.

“We’ve seen large groups in the past, but never on this scale,” Tuc­son-based Bor­der Pa­trol Agent Daniel Her­nan­dez said. “It’s def­i­nitely a se­ri­ous con­cern be­cause their safety is be­ing put in jeop­ardy.”

Her­nan­dez said the lat­est case in­volved 61 peo­ple res­cued by agents last week from ris­ing flood­wa­ters caused by un­usu­ally heavy rains in an iso­lated area and “it could have been a much, much worse sit­u­a­tion if the rain con­tin­ued.”

Un­like Texas, where peo­ple turn them­selves in on the banks of the Rio Grande, the smug­glers in Ari­zona have been dump­ing groups of mi­grant fam­i­lies on a re­mote dirt road run­ning along the south­ern limit of the Or­gan Pipe Cac­tus Na­tional Mon­u­ment west of the Lukeville bor­der cross­ing with Mex­ico. Sum­mer tem­per­a­tures there can soar close to 120 de­grees.

The mi­grants are some­times pro­vided with food and wa­ter, but not al­ways, and they of­ten re­quire med­i­cal care for back and an­kle in­juries or lac­er­a­tions.

The traf­fick­ers have “no re­gard for the safety and well-be­ing of these fam­i­lies,” Tuc­son Sec­tor Chief Rodolfo Karisch said last week.

Two larger groups of mi­grants from Gu­atemala and Hon­duras were also found aban­doned last week near Yuma. Bor­der Pa­trol of­fi­cers said 108 peo­ple were found just be­fore mid­night Oct. 2 a half-mile west of the San Luis Port of En­try and five hours later, agents ap­pre­hended 56 Cen­tral Amer­i­cans a mile east of the same bor­der cross­ing.

Though Mex­i­can men trav­el­ing with­out rel­a­tives once made up the bulk of the mi­grants, Gu­atemalans and other Cen­tral Amer­i­cans trav­el­ing in fam­i­lies or as un­ac­com­pa­nied mi­nors are now the norm. Of the more than 90,000 mi­grants trav­el­ing in fam­i­lies who were ap­pre­hended dur­ing the 11-month pe­riod, close to half were from Gu­atemala. The rest were from Hon­duras, El Sal­vador and Mex­ico.

Tuc­son Sec­tor Bor­der Pa­trol / As­so­ci­ated Press

More than 1,400 mi­grants — mostly from Cen­tral Amer­ica — have been left by smug­glers in ter­rain like this near Lukeville, Ariz. Sum­mer tem­per­a­tures in the desert can reach 120 de­grees.

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