TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - On Tuesday morning, Border Patrol agents from the Ajo Station encountered 393 migrants after they entered the country and surrendered to agents west of Lukeville.
CBP camera operators spotted the mass of people after several buses arrived south of the U.S.-Mexico border approximately 14 miles west of the Port of Lukeville. BP agents watched as the group exited the buses and walked under the vehicle barrier that sits on the border.
The group, mostly family units from Central America, was similar to previous ones that have recently crossed in this remote area. Ajo Chief Villareal said the most alarming of Tuesday morning’s apprehension is more than half were children, from infants to 16-year-olds.
Of the 393 apprehended, Chief Villareal said 199 were children with family units and 33 were children by themselves.
National Park Service employees assisted agents at the site of the crossing, which sits on the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Additional Border Patrol assets from around the Tucson Sector were diverted to provide humanitarian, transportation, and processing assistance for the large group.
“This group today, again just under 400, created a tremendous gap in border security,” said Tucson Sector Chief Agent Roy Villareal. “I had to allocate, I had to close down the checkpoint in Ajo, I had to allocate virtually an entire station to begin transporting this group of 400 to provide care, provide medical attention for them.”
Chief Villareal said the checkpoint was shutdown and he allocated the whole station to work with the transportation of the group. CBPS said agents were still moving members of the group in the late afternoon. More than 100 agents were needed in the operation.
Transportation was also an issue Tuesday. Chief Villareal said the Ajo station does not have large buses, so he altered routes and acquired buses from other stations to move the group from the desert landscape.
Chief Villareal said he is trying to acquire new buses, but the issue is “government contract is not that quick.”
CBP is facing an alarming trend in the rising volume of people illegally crossing the southwestern border of the U.S. In a press release, CBP stated “this stark and increasing shift to more vulnerable populations, combined with the overwhelming numbers, and inadequate capacity to detain families and children has created a humanitarian and border security crisis.”
“Let’s not be deceived here, this is an orchestrated effort by a criminal syndicate. There are thousands of dollars being generated by this syndicate," said Chief Villareal.
The chief claimed the large group made way for criminals to move across the border, pointing to a group in camouflage that was apprehended west of Sasabe in March.
Chief Villareal said the group “will have a tremendous impact on our detention capability.” The members of the large group were being transported to nine different stations in the Tucson sector for processing. The chief said every single station in Tucson sector will have to participate in processing “as expeditiously and as humanly as possible.”
CBP reported a group of 600 migrants apprehended in El Paso, bringing the total close to 1,000 Tuesday.