- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 19, 2006

TONOPAH, Ariz. (AP) — Authorities found as many as 100 illegal aliens in the desert about 50 miles west of Phoenix and searched yesterday for others who might still be in the area.

Investigators think the stretch of desert was used as a stash area until alien smugglers could arrange transportation for their customers.

Many of the rescued illegals were from Guatemala. They showed symptoms of dehydration and exhaustion from triple-digit heat. Seven aliens and three sheriff’s deputies were taken to hospitals; their conditions were unavailable.

The aliens told authorities that three persons had died, but searchers had not found any bodies.

Federal authorities took custody of many of the rescued border-crossers, who were expected to face removal proceedings in immigration court.

The rescued illegal aliens told authorities that others were still in the area.

“We are busy at work,” said Lt. Paul Chagolla, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, which is leading the search.

Vehicle and foot patrols were under way yesterday morning, and police aircraft were expected to join in later in the day.

Deputies discovered the aliens Tuesday while patrolling a dirt road after they saw a suspicious vehicle coming out of the brush. The illegals were in distress, authorities said.

“You aren’t going to have close to 100 people walking through that area,” Lt. Chagolla said.

The state has a new anti-immigration law, passed in response to public frustration over Arizona’s porous border with Mexico and the costs of health care and education for illegal aliens. Immigration is usually a federal responsibility.

The illegal aliens found Tuesday won’t be arrested, said Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. They weren’t caught in the act of being transported by a smuggler — a necessary element of proving the state crime.

Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, is Arizona’s most populous county. The area searched is about 120 miles north of the Mexican border.

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