CBP Aircrews Rescue 5 Migrants in Arizona Mountains near Border

by BOB PRICE 19 Jun 2024

Helicopter aircrews assigned to CBP’s Air and Marine Operations’ Tucson Air Branch rescued five migrants from life-threatening conditions in the desert mountains near the Arizona border with Mexico. CBP is carrying out higher-than-normal numbers of rescue operations as the summer heat increases.

Douglas Station Horse Patrol agents contacted the Tucson Air Branch for assistance after finding a group of migrants experiencing heat exhaustion on Friday. Three Tucson Sector Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue (BORSTAR) agents teamed up with the Black Hawk aircrew to respond to the incident.

One of the migrants became unconscious and experienced seizures, officials reported. The helicopter crew lowered two AMO Rescue Specialists to clear a landing zone. The helicopter landed, and agents loaded the migrant onboard for treatment. The crew flew the migrant to an awaiting ambulance.

Another migrant suffered heat exhaustion and was delirious when agents arrived. That migrant was airlifted to an awaiting Douglas Fire Department crew for assistance.

A third migrant could not walk due to the heat and lack of hydration. Ground conditions necessitated the hoisting of the migrant to the helicopter. The crew flew that migrant to a Douglas Fire team for ground transportation to a hospital.

Two days later, a Tucson aircrew was dispatched to the Peloncillo Mountain Range near the Arizona/New Mexico border. The aircrew found a landing zone in the steep mountainous terrain and helps get a distressed migrant on board. The Douglas Horse Patrol unit located the migrants and provided initial first aid. Officials reported that the aircrew flew the migrant to an awaiting ambulance, then returned to the scene and retrieved a second distressed migrant. The aircrew returned the Horse Patrol agents to his team. The agents escorted seven other migrants to Border Patrol transportation vehicles.

“Our aircrews are trained and capable of rapidly shifting from operational missions to humanitarian roles,” Jessie Scruggs, Director of Air and Marine Operations, Tucson Air Branch, said in a written statement. “These two incidents represent what our aircrews are called to assist agents on the ground who encounter the growing number of migrants who become distressed by the unrelentless conditions they are placed in by callous smugglers.”

CBP officials stated that transnational criminal organizations in Mexico continue to “recklessly endanger the lives of individuals they smuggle across difficult terrain and hot temperatures for their own financial gain.” The abandonment of migrants in these remote and dangerous levels is leading to a rise in the number of migrant rescues.

“CBP’s message for anyone who is thinking of entering the United States illegally along the Southern border is simple: don’t do it,” officials stated. “When migrants cross the border illegally, they put their lives in peril.”

In FY2020, President Donald Trump’s final year in office, Border Patrol and AMO agents rescued approximately 5,500 migrants, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection report. That number spiked to more than 13,000 during President Joe Biden’s first year in office. The number of migrants requiring rescue tripled since then to more than 37,000 in FY23. So far this year, more than 3,100 migrants have been rescued from life-threatening conditions.