Union Tribune

May 22, 2002 

Imperial County to get safe-border focus


WASHINGTON U.S. border enforcement officials are sending
horses, helicopters and hovercraft to Imperial County this year
as part of an annual summer border-safety initiative, according
to sources at the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

While Imperial County is being singled out because of the large
number of people who have died of exposure trying to cross the
border illegally in recent years, the U.S.-Mexico border near
Tucson and Yuma also will get additional resources.

INS Commissioner James Ziglar plans to announce the initiative,
which is being coordinated with the government of Mexico,
during stops in Arizona and California later this week.

The single greatest impact will be in Imperial County.

Border agents there will get two hovercraft to help with rescue
operations along the All-American canal, where many
undocumented migrants have drowned trying to sneak across
the border.

The Border Patrol also will get horses to help watch the border
and, when necessary, track migrants who have become stranded
or lost in the remote terrain. Two helicopters will be assigned
temporarily to the area.

Also, the INS plans to establish what it is calling an intelligence
cell in Imperial County to work with Mexican authorities to
break up smuggling operations there.

In Arizona, Ziglar plans to highlight experimental beacons set on
towers in the desert that have proved helpful to lost migrants.
The towers, which can be seen at a distance, allow the migrants
to summon help.

Deaths along the border during summer months have become a
major concern for U.S. and Mexican officials. In recent years,
both governments have worked on public safety campaigns in an
effort to avert fatalities.

The issue has gained more prominence since the mid-1990s as
tighter security in urban corridors along the border has pushed
many immigrants to cross in more remote areas, increasing the
number of deaths caused by exposure.

Officials said 341 people died of exposure last year while
crossing the border.