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Tucson, once considered to be the most dangerous place to cross the U.S. Mexico border, is now its busiest sector. NBC News obtained Customs and Border Protection statistics that show an average of more than 1,300 migrants crossing daily despite temperatures regularly exceeding 100 degrees.
“This is an extremely rough and rough entry into the United States,” Jim Chilton said, a rancher from Arivaca in Arizona who sees migrants crossing his 50,000-acre land on a regular basis.
He said that the migrant population on his ranch was not deterred.
The majority of migrants who try to cross Chilton’s property are adult males trying to avoid Border Patrol detection. In other areas, such as around Nogales and Tucson, families with small children turn themselves in to agents in order to obtain asylum.
NBC News was recently with Border Patrol agents as they apprehended a 20-person group of women and children that had crossed the border in Nogales early in the morning when it was still cool.
A mother and her son, aged 16, said that they had slept in the mountains. They were tired and hungry and turned themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol.
Border Patrol agents, as well as rescue workers, are concerned about the increase in families given this summer’s high temperatures.
Agent Ronaldo Rios is the acting director of Arizona Air Coordination Center. He told NBC News that he had seen groups with over 200 women and children including babies and toddlers.
Rios said that the most common danger people hear about is heat. “Exposure – being in the mountains or on our terrain for long periods without water.”
John Russell, an agent of the Border Patrol who flies Black Hawk helicopters for Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations, reported that his unit received 26 calls in one day. During the first storm in southern Arizona’s monsoon season, many migrants trying to cross the Border in remote terrain asked for help.
Russell said that 911 calls “started to roll in”. We couldn’t get to three of them due to the weather and aircraft availability. Later, one of them was found dead. He didn’t survive. “He succumbed to weather.”
Officials at the Department of Homeland Security are also concerned about the increase in the number of families who cross the border. The increase in Tucson could lead to more deaths among migrants.
Alejandro Avirde is a border patrol agent. “We see very small kids who need water,” he said. “They have been on this hike for over five hours and are in desperate need of water.”