Border Patrol agents rescued more than a dozen illegal immigrants who strolled onto a military bombing range in Arizona Monday night and got lost.
Officials said the 17 illegal immigrants who lost their way are lucky they weren’t blown to smithereens or consumed by the unforgiving desert, though they will be prosecuted for immigration violations.
— CBP Arizona (@CBPArizona) June 19, 2019
“This particular area is especially dangerous for illegal border crossers due to the remoteness of the location,” Yuma Sector Chief Patrol Agent Anthony J. Porvaznik said in a media release from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “In addition to the complete lack of adequate infrastructure to stop this occurrence, illegal aliens must contend with the summer heat and the dangers of military training in the area.”
Emergency services in Mexico relayed a call to Border Patrol around 10:10 p.m. Monday night from a group of illegal immigrants – eight adults and nine minors – lost in the desert after crossing into the country. Agents immediately launched a search and located the illegal immigrants 20 minutes later, about 30 miles east of San Luis in the Barry M. Goldwater Bombing Range.
The 2.7 million acre bombing range in the Sonoran Desert has been used by military pilots from across the country since 1941 to practice blowing up targets on the ground, “where the sandy, flat desert is marked with little shade and signs warning about unexploded ordnance,” the Tucson Sentinel reports.
The site also includes 31 miles of border with Mexico that’s been at the center of the fight over President Trump’s proposed wall.
The Trump administration wants to erect a steel-bollard wall about 150 feet behind an existing border fence, which currently relies on a chain link fence and warning signs, in both English and Spanish, to dissuade drug traffic and illegal crossings, according to The Washington Post.
“DANGER. USAF Gunnery Range. Do Not Enter,” one sign reads, according to The Washington Post.
“DANGER. Military Reservation,” reads another. “Do Not Enter.”
Then Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told Congress last year that building a wall at the site is a no-brainer.
“This is a safety consideration,” he said, according to the Post. “I don’t care who they are, they are human beings, and I don’t want them wandering into a bombing range that is active.”
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jamie Davis acknowledged that a border wall along the bombing range would help crack down on a known drug smuggling route, but “more importantly” the barrier would “address increasing human life and safety concerns by deterring unlawful entry onto an active bombing range.”
Regardless, Raul Grijalva, the area’s Democrat congressman, has argued against a wall on the range’s border with Mexico, and attacked folks trying to make it happen.
“The Barry Goldwater Range already has a border barrier,” Grijalva said. “Any attempts by the Department of Defense to construct further barriers to build Trump’s vanity wall are misguided and unnecessary.”
The recent rescue is part of a dramatic increase in rescues by Border Agents in the Yuma Sector and others this year, including illegal immigrants caught under drainage ditch fences, double amputees dumped into the Rio Grande or abandoned on river islands by smugglers, and other terrible situations.
The Sentinel reports:
A week earlier, Yuma Sector agents said they rescued 16 people in a 24-hour period, including three men at the Fontuna Mine, an abandoned mine in the Goldwater Range, about 13 miles east of San Luis. Agents said they rescued 12 other people near the Colorado River, including a girl who needed medical attention, and a man and his three-year-old daughter after he jumped into a salinity canal with the girl in his arms, but could not climb the banks, so agents threw a “rescue disc” into the water, and pulled them both in.
June’s rescues alone easily surpassed the number of rescues agents in the area made last year, according to agency statistics.
From October 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018, Yuma Sector agents said they rescued 20 people, and the adjacent Tucson Sector rescued 923 people.
The rescue at the Goldwater Range is at least the second there this month. Border Patrol agents found a Guatemalan woman dead on the federal property on June 3 after she became sick and was left behind by a group of illegal immigrants she was traveling with, the Sentinel reports.
The Air and Marine Operations recovered the 40-year-old woman’s body and five other people, while agents on the ground rescued four others nearby.