TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents arrested more than 66,000 migrants in February, the highest number in a single month in almost a decade.
KOLD News 13’s Angelica Carrillo has been touring both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border for months.
She traveled to the Ajo/Lukeville area to see why more and more migrants are crossing there.
During the visit, border agents arrested a group of nearly 100 migrants, mostly family units and many from Central America.
Agents separated the migrants into groups of women and their children and men and their children, stripping them of their belongings and shoe strings.
Migrants were told they are only allowed one shirt, but kids can keep a sweater. They were told it’s cold at the station.
One by one the migrants were loaded into dozens of vans.
One man named Luis, said he and his son had been traveling for nearly two weeks from Guatemala, catching different rides to get to the border.
Luis said he was not promised anything by smugglers. He said he and his son were fleeing violence and they came on their own.
Tucson Sector CBP Agent, Daniel Hernandez, said it is a common story.
“All these folks that we’re seeing apprehended are getting information from a smuggler - from an illicit crime organization that is giving them information - and coaching on how to get into the United States … very organized.”
Luis said he didn’t know his chances of getting asylum were better had he crossed legally, but says he thanks God he’s already here.
From that point, the migrants begin a different journey through the immigration and court system.
“They’ll head over to one of our immigration partners, whether it’s in Tucson or Phoenix I don’t know, but ultimately every person has a different path through the immigration system,” Hernandez said.
But it’s the path to get to the Lukeville area that’s a concern for border agents.
A roughly four-foot tall barrier, made from recycled railroad tracks, marks the border for miles in the remote area.
Because the international barrier is only about 50 yards from a Mexican highway, Hernandez said hundreds of migrants are dropped off and can easily walk under the barrier into the U.S.
Hernandez said having a border wall is one tool that would prevent that.
“Infrastructure helps, and infrastructure is a tool. We know that infrastructure is one of the things that can slow people down or keep people out. We know that it’s not the end all be all. We know that there’s got to be agents to make an arrest and technology to monitor that infrastructure,” Hernandez said.
Word of this vulnerable area has reached Mexico.
Across the border from Lukeville, in Sonoyta, Sonora, small groups of migrants fill the town square known as El Triangulo, or “The Triangle," many sitting, waiting, plotting their trip north.
A man named Refugio said he was denied immigration and got deported in California.
He said it was difficult to cross from Tijuana, so he’s here and planning to head out the following day.
He was buying food, water, clothes and a sleeping bag. This time he said he plans to cover his feet to cover his tracks.
When asked what his plan is if he comes across Border Patrol, he replied, “Correrle. Porque te van a garrar y te van a enserar.”
“Run,” he said, because he knows if he’s caught, he’s getting locked up.