- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Rescue beacons erected in the southern Arizona desert by the U.S. Border Patrol led agents this week to six illegal aliens who became lost after being left behind by alien smugglers.

Border Patrol agents from the agency’s Tucson sector, including members of the Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue team, located the six illegals after the blue flashing light towers were activated during four incidents.

The beacons, which field agents call “panic poles,” are located throughout the desert, each with cards in English and Spanish telling migrants, “You are in danger of dying if you do not summon for help.”

“These beacons are very often an alien’s last chance as they are callously abandoned by the smugglers guiding them through the desert,” the Border Patrol said.

Since Oct. 1, Tucson sector agents have rescued 72 persons in the desert during 28 search operations.

In August, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said the number of border-crossing deaths had increased steadily since 1995 and more than doubled by 2005, although there was not a corresponding increase in the number of illegal entries.

The GAO said more than three-fourths of the doubling in deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border from California to Texas were attributable to increases in deaths in the Arizona desert. In a report, the GAO said the number of migrant deaths jumped from 200 in 1990 to 500 in 2005, although others have claimed the numbers are low.

In response to the rising deaths, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol, established the Border Safety Initiative (BSI) with two main objectives: the reduction of injuries and the prevention of deaths in the Southwest border region.

Border Patrol agents have rescued more than 7,500 people from high-risk areas in the Southwest since BSI’s implementation in 1998. The BSI was seen as a counter to unscrupulous smugglers who have moved illegals into more remote, rugged and hazardous terrain.

The program includes warning signs in high-risk areas; border safety awareness campaigns; public service announcements on television and radio; emergency medical technician training for agents; and rescue beacons in high-risk areas to assist those in distress and in need of medical assistance.

During the past week, agents in the Tucson sector:

• Responded to a rescue beacon near the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, where two illegal aliens had been left behind and were hungry and thirsty after walking in the desert for two days.

• Rescued a 16-year-old boy who became separated from his group near Ajo, Ariz. The teenager told agents that when he woke up in the morning the group with which he was traveling was gone. He said he activated the beacon because he was lost.

• Responded to a beacon in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, where agents encountered an illegal alien who said he was having trouble keeping up with his group and they left him behind.

• Responded to a beacon activation near Ajo, where agents found two illegal aliens who also had been left behind by their group. They said a local resident directed them to the beacon and told them the Border Patrol would come get them.

The illegals were treated and then processed for deportation.

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