TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The record heat has Border Patrol agents out in full force for heat-related rescues.
In 2016 Tucson Border Patrol agents helped rescue more than 1,400 people all across the Sonoran Desert. Agents say with our intense heat the chances of survival are slim.
Tucson News Now rode alongside agent Vicente Paco on Monday afternoon, June 19. As temperatures hit a scorching 115 degrees in Tucson, we were ready to respond to those in need of help.
"It's physically impossible for those individuals crossing to carry enough water," Paco said.
From drug smugglers to hikers, Paco said 84 people died in the desert because of the extreme heat last year.
"It should not be a death sentence to come across the border illegally, and yet smugglers put immigr ants in those situations," Paco said.
Paco said some people crossing the border will walk more than 80 miles to the interstate, all while carrying 50 pounds of drugs on their backs. Many can't make the journey or navigate the terrain and that's where agents come in.
"Agents patrolling the locations become the first responders," he said.
Regardless of immigration status, Border Patrol steps in to help. Agents in the Tucson Sector have been reassigned to remote areas that historically have seen a large number of calls for help.
They have also placed several blue light beacons in areas notorious for rescues, as regular cell phone service often doesn't work.
"This is one of the 34 that we have positioned throughout the Tucson Sector, people can come here press this button and it sends a signal to the station," Paco said.
Distress call come into the joint intelligence center, where dispatch receives GPS coordinates of the person in trouble. Then they send the closest agent to respond.
Border Patrol agents want those crossing to think twice about the consequences.
"We want them to understand the harsh reality of coming across the border illegally – as one death is one too many," Paco said.
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