Deadliest SW border stretch is getting 209 more agents
I don't want to go on being just a root in the shadows,
vacillating, extended, shivering with dream,
down in the damp bowels of earth,
absorbing it, thinking it, eating it every day.
-Pablo Neruda from 'Walking Around'
Border issues in the news...
An additional 209 U.S. Border Patrol agents will be in Arizona starting today in an attempt to address border deaths in the Southwest border's deadliest stretch.
The agency's "Operation Guardian" initiative kicks off after the two deadliest months for border deaths — June and July — have already passed.
At least 40 bodies of illegal immigrants were recovered in July across Arizona's stretch of U.S.-Mexico border from New Mexico to Yuma County, and at least 135 bodies have been found along that stretch since Jan. 1, up from 120 at the same time last year, medical examiners' records show.
The agents assigned to the Tucson Sector in the "Operation Guardian," program will be here through September, said Omar Candelaria, a Border Patrol Tucson Sector spokesman. They'll be used primarily in processing centers and at highway checkpoints to free up the other 3,300 full-time agents in the sector.
"It allows us to have a bigger presence out there," Candelaria said. "That will allow our agents that are from the area to be out in the field and reach out to more people."
From Oct. 1 through June, the most up-to-date figures available from the agency, agents in the Tucson Sector had rescued 300 people, he said.
While the extra help is welcome, the initiative is too little, too late, said Robin Hoover, president of Humane Borders, which operates water stations in the desert.
"They are responding kind of late in the game," Hoover said. "The numbers are higher, the rate is higher and the feds are just now responding to it. It looks to me like they don't monitor this situation very closely."
The Arizona Daily Star's border-death database shows that June and July are the two deadliest months for illegal immigrants.
An average of 43 bodies have been recovered each July from 2004-2009, along with 31 bodies each June during that span, the database shows.
August is the third-most dangerous month, with an average of 24 bodies each year from 2004-2008.
When asked about why the program is starting in August and not sooner, Candelaria said, "This is when we were able to get them in here."
Even if the program had begun earlier this summer, simply putting extra agents would not have necessarily made the border safer, Hoover said. The buildup of agents, fences and technology in the last five to 10 years in Arizona has pushed illegal immigrants into more remote and dangerous routes, he said.
The Tucson Sector accounts for half of all bodies found along the U.S.-Mexico border, and the total number of deaths and the rate of death are both up this year compared to past years, the Arizona Daily Star's border death database shows.
The risk of dying is 1.5 times higher today compared with five years ago and 17 times greater than in 1998, the Arizona Daily Star's border-death database shows.
"They rescue a lot of people, but they created the situation in the first place," said Hoover, referring to the fact that he and others say the additional agents have pushed illegal immigrants into more remote and dangerous routes.
Read the entire article by Brady McCombs in the Arizona Daily Star