Deaths in the desert increase - Tucson News Now

Deaths in the desert increase

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Migrants are competing with Border Patrol and Mexican drug cartels to make it into the United States.

They are trying so hard to cross that the number of people losing their lives in harsh remote areas has increased.

The group Humane Borders says migrants are crossing where human traffickers charge less money but the journey is more dangerous.

"Any kind of injury could be fatal; a twisted ankle, a blister, drinking tainted water," said Juanita Molina of Humane Borders.

"Before, people were crossing in areas where there was natural water in the desert. Now, at this point, people are going into more remote areas."

Times have changed and so has the trust between migrant and guide.

"A guide might take them part of the way, have them in the remote desert and then say, ‘Now pay me X amount of money to get you this much farther,'" Molina said.

Last year 157 migrants died making the trek.

So far this year, 160 have died, and Pima County Chief Medical Examiner Gregory Hess said this year may top out with more than 170 deaths.

Humane Borders has several water trucks which can hold 300 gallons of water. They take them to various points in the desert, but they can't always predict where they will be needed.

Humane Borders says violent cartels run many crossing routes, forcing migrants to take more remote paths.

Border Patrol agents say they're getting more hits at their rescue beacons.

"It has a button that if a migrant becomes desperate and needs help they can push that button," said Peter Bidegain of the Tucson Sector Border Patrol.

"If we see a traffic pattern in one area, we can deploy assets to that area," Bidegain said.

Agents made 632 rescues in Fiscal Year 2012.

This past fiscal year, there were 767 rescues through August.

Agents will continue to enforce the laws, so Humane Borders suggests policies that protect migrants and target abusive smugglers.

"If we are essentially deporting our own material witnesses, we're really undermining our own efforts," Molina said.

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