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Soaring Temperatures Threaten Migrants In The Desert

Near SELLS, Ariz. — As temperatures approach 120 degrees in the Arizona desert this week, immigrants crossing the border illegally are finding themselves in trouble.

U.S. Border Patrol trauma agents already rescued hundreds of people in the weeks before the first day of summer. And now they anticipate more.

Luis Otero was rescued in the Arizona desert by U.S. Border Patrol.

Border Patrol Search, Trauma and Rescue Agent Gerry Carrasco and his partner scan the radio traffic.

It’s hot. The sun is a melting yellow orb rising over the jagged stone peaks of the Baboquivari Mountains in southern Arizona. Mexico is 40 miles away. Anybody who has made it this far has been walking for two or three days in the desert.

A man called 911 at dawn. A smuggler left him to die when he couldn’t keep up.

Carrasco is waiting for a second team of agents who are out tracking the man. The second team radios in. They found someone, but Carrasco’s not sure if it’s the person who called 911 or yet another migrant in need of help.

"I'd say he's 15, 18 miles from South Mountain," his partner said, looking at a map.

"That’s a long way," Carrasco said.

"It is. Hopefully once they get confirmation they can determine if it’s the same guy."

So far this year, nearly 100 people have been found dead in Arizona’s deserts. Those are only the bodies that have been found — it’s not known how many actually died.

University of Arizona researchers have been looking at the data from the last 12 years. They found that more bodies were discovered even as apprehensions dropped.

On a day like today, with the sun now burning overhead, the human body dries out quickly and core temperatures start to rise.

"If you’re hovering above 100 degrees, once those cooling mechanisms stop you’re gonna be up in the 106s 107s, at that point you’re actually killing tissue, cells are dying. And it just starts snowballing from there," Carrasco said.

The radio blasts again. The second team has found the man. Carrasco drives his SUV to a spot just off Arizona Highway 86. The second team’s German Shepherd barks nearby.

Luis Otero tells a story that's all too common in the desert. He paid a smuggler to bring him from Mexico to Tucson for a job. He injured himself. The smuggler left him behind. His face is flushed and he’s breathing hard. He walked three days.

The agents found him because they got a tip that he was wearing a distinctive pair of Nike shoes.

"I started following those shoe prints and they were circling around trees and looking for shelter and I came up on the guy with the Nike shock. Just basically tracking him out toward that tree," said the agent who tracked Otero down.

With highway traffic roaring behind him, the agent gives Otero a bottle of water. Then a second. Then a third. He gasps as he drinks it.

Agents have rescued nearly 200 people in the past month alone. Most of the calls for help came from immigrants dialing 911, just like Otero. Carrasco said he doesn’t know how many people are not found. Nobody does.

"You’re just there to do as much as you can and if I can go home at the end of the day knowing that I did everything that I could," Carrasco said. "I don’t say that I get jaded, but you learn how to handle it. And you learn how to cope with it. You have to learn how to cope with it. Or else you go crazy. You won’t be able to last very long."

The agents put Otero in the back of the truck. He’ll be processed and then deported. As they head back to Tucson, the radio chatter keeps coming in. There are more migrants roaming the desert in panic. It’s 4 p.m. And 103 degrees.

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Avatar for user 'Eddie89'

Eddie89 | July 2, 2013 at 10:48 a.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago

Why can't our politicians work together to come up with a sensible solution to this tragic problem?! We have people that want to work and they are willing to do the jobs that Americans refuse to do, no matter the pay rate.

Instead of these people paying human smugglers hundreds, even thousands of dollars to smuggle them into the U.S. Why not pay that same money to Uncle Sam in the form of a work permit. They can then work in the U.S. legally, send money back home or choose to stay here and work towards becoming citizens!

Less loss of life. More government revenue.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | July 2, 2013 at 11:19 a.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago

Presumably the end answer will be that there is still a large mismatch between the number who want to come in and the number we need.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | July 2, 2013 at 11:33 a.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago

Long-term border control and short-term emergency assistance are two separate issues.

If someone's life is in danger, they need to be rescued period. We can debate the border issues, but that shouldn't interfere with basic human rights and safety.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | July 2, 2013 at 12:25 p.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago


Americans refuse the jobs because entitlement programs pay more for doing nothing. Force companies to pay minimum wage, severely punish those who hire illegal aliens, cut entitlement programs, and you will see Americans filling the jobs.

We don't need foreign manual labor! Especially when the actual unemployment rate is astonishingly high at 14%.

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Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | July 2, 2013 at 12:47 p.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago

"I'm an 18 year old high school graduate here in Salinas. Guess I'd better get a job. Should I walk across the street to the lettuce farm and start bending over all day long for $5/hour, or take the bus over to the library and sign up for one of those numerous Government Entitlement Programs that pay me to do nothing? Gee, I sure do hate working, so I'll go with the Government Entitlement Program!"

- how the fictional characters in CaliforniaDefender's head think.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | July 2, 2013 at 1:34 p.m. ― 3 years, 9 months ago


$5 an hour? Please. The average illegal alien makes about $7,500 a year working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. Comes to $2.40 an hour.

But for the sake of argument, let's use your inflated $5.00 an hour. That is still less than working minimum wage at a fast food joint for $8.00 an hour. So STILL, the kid would refuse to work at the lettuce farm.

He works in fast food, then in a couple years he finds a wife, has a couple kids, and quits when he learns about welfare and food stamps. Average is $30 per hour for a family of four.

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Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | July 2, 2013 at 6:34 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Check your facts.

The chart concludes that welfare spending “equates” to $168 in cash per day for each household in poverty, which it says exceeds the median income by 20 percent. Alternatively, as Sessions put it at the hearing, this amounts to $60,000 per year, compared to a median income of $50,000 in 2011.

We had long discussions with Sessions’s staff about this figure, which they contend is mathematically correct and intended to illuminate the money now spent by the federal government on low-income people. But we have some serious problems with both the numerator and denominator in this calculation.

First, health-care spending, especially Medicaid, makes up nearly 50 percent of the total figure. But a majority of Medicaid spending goes to the elderly and disabled, not families with children.

Moreover, health-care spending is different from food stamps or the earned income tax credit in that such aid generally does not add to a family’s income level; instead, such assistance helps pays for bills that are the direct result of how sick or disabled a patient is. (That’s why so much of Medicaid spending is directed to the elderly in the last years of life.)

“Medicaid is a federal program that is intended to provide health-care services to people who are poor or near-poor,” responded a Sessions aide. “It also provides health benefits to sick people, but those people must first meet certain income criteria (and in some cases an asset test) in order to qualify for the benefit. In other words, being sick alone doesn’t qualify one for Medicaid in the same way as being hungry doesn’t qualify one for food stamps.”

Still, while the chart compares what Sessions terms welfare spending to median income, the Census Bureau does not include health benefits (such as employer-provided health care) in that calculation, even though such benefits account for half of the welfare side of the ledger. (See Page 29.) So, he’s really comparing apples and oranges.

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Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | July 2, 2013 at 6:34 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

Finally, Sessions adds up many means-tested programs, which are aimed at people with low incomes, but then divides the figure by the number of people under the poverty level — even though millions of people above the poverty level receive these benefits. That also significantly gooses up the figure for spending per household.

At first glance, many might assume that Sessions is saying this is how much money is given to each household under the poverty line. Sessions’s staff fiercely disputed that, noting that the chart says “equates,” which they say indicates it is not claiming that this money is spent only on people below the poverty line.

But that impression is certainly left, particularly given the way Sessions discussed the figure at the hearing: “We spend enough on federal welfare to mail every household living beneath the poverty line a check for $60,000 each year.”

In testimony before the House Budget Committee in 2012, Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation said that simply dividing the means-tested spending by the number of the poor “can be misleading because many persons with incomes above the official poverty levels also receive means-tested aid.” He recommended dividing the figure by the bottom third of the income distribution, which yielded a figure of $36,000 for a family of four.

The Congressional Budget Office, in a report this month, had an even more nuanced approach, estimating the average federal spending per household in 2006 for the 10 largest means-tested programs (worth about 75 percent of Sessions’s total) by different income quintiles. For the lowest quintile, the figure is nearly $9,000, after adjusting to 2012 dollars.

In both cases, when a more nuanced approach was taken, the headline number shrinks.

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Avatar for user 'Eddie89'

Eddie89 | July 5, 2013 at 10:45 a.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

From this article I read, actually working a lettuce farm is no walk in the park.

And then the writer went on to write a book about his experience:

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