Contributed Article/Courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection
YUMA – Yuma Sector Border Patrol agents found two deceased individuals in separate locations in the desert southeast of the foothills Tuesday.
An agent assigned to the Wellton station was tracking a group of migrants through the Barry M. Goldwater bombing range on Monday morning when he encountered a deceased male. The migrant, later identified as a 40-year-old Mexican national, was only a couple of miles away from a rescue beacon. It is believed that the migrant had been deceased for approximately two weeks.
On Tuesday afternoon, Yuma Sector radio fielded a 911 call from C5, which is Mexico’s 911 equivalent, about a group in need of help south of the Yuma foothills. The caller stated that a female member of the group collapsed and was deceased.
Yuma Air Interdiction agents responded to the area and located the group, including the deceased female. Agents took the migrants into custody and the deceased female, a 20-year-old Guatemalan national, was turned over to the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office coroner. One of the members of the group was a 16-year-old guide from San Luis, Mexico.
“It doesn’t take much,” said Lenin Padilla, a Border Patrol agent, and program manager assigned to the Yuma Sector Foreign Operations Branch. “Proof of that is the woman. She was only a couple of miles north of the border. It’s hot out there.”
Yuma Sector Chief Patrol Agent Chris T. Clem said this is a tragic example of how smugglers exploit migrants.
“The smugglers have no regard for human life,” Chief Clem said. “Border Patrol agents will continue to do their best to mitigate entries and rescue migrants who need their help.”
Padilla, who is also the coordinator for Yuma Sector’s Missing Migrant Program, said Border Patrol is working with the Mexican government and other non-government organizations to try to prevent incidents like this from occurring. By putting out public service announcements in Mexico, they hope that migrants will avoid crossing the border in barren areas of the desert, especially during the summer.
“The most important thing is prevention,” Padilla said. “We are trying to prevent people from crossing the desert, especially in the summer months.”
Padilla also works closely with consulates, medical examiners, and coroners to help locate missing migrants and identify deceased migrants for the purpose of notifying family members.
For those who choose to ignore the warnings, rescue beacons and 911 placards are situated throughout the desert so migrants can summon help if they need to. During the month of May, Yuma Sector agents responded to 47 911 calls and rescued 126 migrants. Five dead bodies were recovered, three of whom were identified and two whose identities are unknown.
In addition, Padilla said there are two migrants who are unaccounted for. Their families reported them missing to their respective consulates after they planned to cross the desert into the U.S. and haven’t been heard from since.
“These were people who were in the desert and were never found,” Padilla said.
Padilla said so far in the first three days of June, the two bodies previously mentioned have been recovered and agents have responded to three 911 calls. Padilla expects those numbers to continue to rise.
“Unfortunately, we are expecting the number of 911 calls to increase as the summer months come,” he said.