Record numbers of migrant families streamed across the U.S.-Mexico border in August, an influx that has upended the Biden administration’s efforts to discourage parents from entering illegally with children and could once again place immigration in the spotlight during a presidential race.
While the Biden administration claims that they have provided legal pathways for migrants, the fact remains that many people are crossing the border illegally. The latest point of entry is in Arizona due to floodgates that have been welded open.
It is not just families; hundreds of migrants have been making their way through scorching heat and open floodgates in the border wall during the summer. They were traversing a remote path within the vast Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, an extremely desolate and dangerous region within the Arizona borderlands, with temperatures reaching a staggering 118 degrees Fahrenheit (47.7 degrees Celsius).
Recently, migrants from Africa and Asia have begun seeking asylum in this area due to the guidance of human smugglers using social media. Because of the increase from Africa and Asia, the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, responsible for this region, has experienced its highest activity along the U.S.-Mexico border since 2008 during July.
Migrants hailing from distant countries such as Pakistan, China, and Mauritania, attracted by social media, followed a new route that originated in Nicaragua and eventually led them to this region. Alongside them were substantial numbers of migrants from Ecuador, Bangladesh, and Egypt, as well as the more typical border crossers from Mexico and Central America.
Deputy Chief of the Tucson Sector, Justin De La Torre, noted that they are now encountering people from all over the world. He described the situation as a real emergency and a trying one. To manage the situation, the Border Patrol sought assistance from other agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Transportation Security Administration to move migrants from the harsh conditions into processing centers swiftly.
During a recent visit, Associated Press journalists reported that nearly 100 migrants arrived within four hours at the border wall near Lukeville, Arizona, within Organ Pipe National Monument. This was as the temperature reached 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.3 degrees Celsius). The following morning, several hundred more migrants queued along the wall to surrender themselves to authorities.
The region’s floodgates had remained open since mid-June due to monsoon season rains. These gates allow water to pass through during heavy downpours, but migrants were also using them to enter even when closed, often by breaking locks or finding gaps.
In August, the Border Patrol’s Ajo Station encountered several large groups, including one with 533 people from 17 different countries. The Tucson Sector witnessed a 60% increase in arrests in July compared to June, attributed to misleading information spread by smugglers who claimed it was easier to cross this route and gain release in the United States.
Migrants initially arrive at an intake center, where agents collect their information before transferring them to the Ajo Station, located around 30 miles (48 kilometers) away. Arrests for illegal border crossings increased by 33% from June to July along the nearly 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) U.S.-Mexico border, following a decline after new asylum restrictions were introduced in May.
Rescue operations by the CBP, both by air and land, have also surged this year. In a 10-month period ending in July, there were 28,537 rescues, compared to 22,075 in the previous 12-month period ending in September 2022. Many migrants are unprepared for the harsh desert conditions they face.
Despite the efforts, the harsh environment takes its toll. Human Borders, a non-profit organization, reported that 43 suspected border crossers’ remains were found in southern Arizona in July, with half of them having recently died. These included two individuals in Organ Pipe who succumbed to heat exposure.