- The Washington Times - Friday, August 13, 2004

U.S. Border Patrol agents have rescued more than 50 illegal aliens suffering from dehydration and heat exhaustion in the past week along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona, mostly in the desert areas near the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation south of Tucson, where temperatures have soared above 110 degrees.

Spokeswoman Andrea Zortman said members of the agency’s Border Patrol Search, Trauma and Rescue Team (Borstar) in Tucson responded to three separate areas of the desert to search for aliens after reports they had become lost or had been abandoned without water by their smugglers.

Ms. Zortman noted that from the beginning of the current fiscal year on Oct. 1 through Aug. 10, the Tucson team had rescued more than 500 illegal aliens from the Arizona desert as part of a program known as the Border Safety Initiative. The Tucson team consists of 110 agents, four helicopters, multiple all-terrain vehicles and two K-9 units.

Since Oct. 1, Borstar teams along the U.S.-Mexican border have rescued 1,055 aliens who ran out of water and got lost while seeking to illegally enter the United States.

“The Border Safety Initiative is about making our shared border with Mexico more secure and safe,” said Border Patrol Chief David V. Aguilar at the agency’s Washington headquarters. “Controlling our border is paramount to national security, and having control will ensure border safety.”

Fifteen aliens also were rescued this week by a Borstar team in Yuma, after one of them called 911 on his cell phone. One person was found dead when the rescue team arrived. The others were treated for heat exhaustion, four of whom were sent to a hospital; one of them later died.

The Tucson team, while on routine patrol, initially came across eight persons on Wednesday morning suffering from various stages of dehydration. Ms. Zortman said the group was 10 miles from any water source and had been traveling for more than 10 hours without water.

All were treated and stabilized on scene by Borstar agents and later transported to the Border Patrol’s station in Casa Grande, Ariz.

Within three hours, she said, Borstar agents returned to the area and encountered another group of 20 aliens who also sought assistance. The aliens all were in distress; one was unconscious and suffering from severe dehydration and heat exhaustion. Borstar agents requested a helicopter because of the area’s remote location and the severity of the one alien’s condition. He was transported to a Tucson hospital.

Ms. Zortman said the remaining 19 aliens were treated on the scene and taken to the patrol’s Casa Grande station.

While other Borstar agents were on their way to assist with the group of 20, she said, they observed footprints belonging to another group, which was walking along the road. The agents had been following the footprints for three hours when they found 13 illegal aliens near a small cattle tank, one of whom could not walk and was vomiting after drinking water from the tank.

Ms. Zortman said Borstar agents began to treat all the aliens for dehydration and exhaustion. Because of the remoteness of the area, the ill alien had to be transported by Borstar to the nearest road to meet with an ambulance, where he was taken to a Sells, Ariz., hospital.

She said interviews with the illegal aliens showed that at least one of the smugglers told them he would not wait for those who could not keep up. The aliens pay $1,500 to $2,000 each to be guided into the United States.

The Border Patrol is a part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with protecting the nation’s borders.

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