In the Tucson sector alone last year, the U.S. Border Patrol found 194 corpses and rescued 802 illegal immigrants in danger of dying in the Sonoran Desert. So far this year, sector chief Manuel Padilla, Jr. said that agents have already found another 38 immigrants who died crossing.
The Tucson sector covers 262 miles of the Arizona-Mexico border, constituting just over 12% of the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. According to the Tucson Border Patrol, in 2013 at least a thousand illegal immigrants found conditions in the Sonoran to be too severe. And, as AP reports, agents predict far more will attempt to cross this summer, when the average temperature in the region will reach 113 degrees.
For this reason, the agency is adding ten more emergency beacons. The solar-powered beacons are stationed strategically throughout the more dangerous desert zones and feature a red button that allows immigrants to call for help from the border patrol.
The beacons are 30-feet-tall and solar powered. They have sun reflectors and blue lights on top that are visible for 10 miles. The beacons have signs in three languages that direct users to push a red button that sends out a signal for help. Response times vary from 10 minutes to an hour depending on where the nearest agents are located.
Other preventative measures taken by the Border Patrol is the creation of new emergency hoisting harnesses for helicopters and launching a campaign that informs potential illegal immigrants of the dangers of crossing the desert.
The Border patrol foresees a “steep increase” in crossing emergencies this summer and hopes their proactive measures will prevent more deaths. While border crossings have reportedly decreased in the last few years, last year’s 200 deaths is a 30% increase from years past.