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‘Panic poles’ save migrants lost in the desert

Effective Compassion | Amid national policy fight, U.S. agents rescue stranded illegal immigrants
by Rob Holmes
Posted 6/13/18, 01:36 pm

Rescue beacons are saving migrants’ lives as Arizona desert temperatures hit the summer sizzling point. A person lost on the U.S. side of the border only has to locate a pole and press the red button, and within one hour Customs and Border Protection (CBP) rides to the rescue.

Last year, the CBP’s Tucson Sector agents responded to 750 migrants who could have died if not for summoning help at a beacon.

The nonprofit group Humane Borders reported 44 migrant deaths in the desert from January to May of this year. Pima County Medical Examiner Gregory Hess told Breitbart Texas his office processes the remains of about 160 migrants each year from a four-county area. The bodies usually decompose quickly and get picked clean within a month. Bodies are discovered on routine patrols, though hunters or hikers find some of them. The most common cause of death is exposure or lack of water.

“It is physically impossible for the average person to carry enough water to survive several days walking through Arizona’s desert during this time of year,” CBP warned this month.

Data show the rescue beacons save lives. This fiscal year, 524 people were rescued, including 130 last month. Southern Arizona Border Patrol agents saved 19 illegal immigrants in April when their coyotes—or smugglers—abandoned them in the desert. Migrants try to avoid detection by keeping away from checkpoints, but the harsh conditions weaken them and slow them down. Some rescued people have to be airlifted for immediate medical intervention.

After scores of migrant deaths due to exposure, in 1998 CBP came up with the idea of beacons to save the lives of those struggling to cross the borderland deserts. They started appearing on the horizon near the U.S.-Mexico border in 2001.

The 25- to 30-foot “panic poles” are visible from 10 miles away at night, powered by solar panels that feed a small, high intensity blue light that blinks every 10 seconds. Polished steel helps them reflect light in the daylight, too. Spanish, English, and symbols instruct migrants how to call for help.

The CBP Tucson Sector operates 34 beacons and has 295 EMTs and paramedics  available to respond. Many more beacons rise in the wilderness eastward and in Texas. But even with a plan in place, the agency said, “There’s no guarantee that someone stranded in a remote area will be found in time to prevent the loss of life.”

After receiving rescue and life-saving treatment, illegal crossers enter the adjudication process for deportation. The Department of Justice’s recent policy of separating children from their illegal immigrant parents shows the seriousness of the federal government’s intent to stem the tide of unlawful entries. Borderland rescue beacons show law enforcement’s will to protect life even in this difficult context.

“Securing the border will prevent deaths and criminal victimization of border crossers,” Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier told Breitbart. He said a secure border would constitute “compassionate public policy,” whereas a porous border would “passively encourage illegal border crossing.”

Associated Press/Photo by Wilfredo Lee Associated Press/Photo by Wilfredo Lee A June 1 demonstration in front of U.S. immigration offices in Miramar, Fla. The Spanish signs read, “Families deserve to be united."

Separation anxiety

The UN last week rebuked the U.S. Department of Justice’s new “zero tolerance” border policy that separates children from their migrant parents.

Federal agents have taken away hundreds of children as young as 1-year-old from their parents after they illegally crossed the U.S. border with their families. The practice began even prior to the official policy’s announcement last month, The Guardian reported.

“The U.S. should immediately halt this practice,” Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said last week in Geneva. Noting the United States’ general high regard for children’s rights, she said, “The use of immigration detention and family separation as a deterrent [to illegal border entry] runs counter to human rights standards and principles.”

President Donald Trump defended the policy last week.

“Separating families at the Border is the fault of bad legislation passed by the Democrats,” he tweeted, advocating for a change in security laws and adding, “the Dems can’t get their act together.”

Since 1989, the UN has often criticized the United States for not ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), an international treaty that, if ratified by the Senate, would become U.S. law and give bureaucrats in Geneva the right to mandate the “best interests” of U.S. children. The U.S. refusal to ratify stems from the assumption that U.S. families and parents, not the government, should decide on their children’s best interests, according to a 2009 paper by the Home School Legal Defense Association. But the Trump administration’s separation policy does not allow the same for illegal immigrant parents.

“We reject the idea that separating children from parents is a sensible component of any immigration policy,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. “As Christians, we affirm both the rule of law and compassion for the vulnerable. Splitting up families is not in the best interests of the United States. American policy, even immigration policy, should promote the flourishing of families.” —R.H.

Associated Press/Photo by Chris Carlson Associated Press/Photo by Chris Carlson Immigration officials serve an employment audit notice in January at a Los Angeles 7-Eleven.

Identity crisis

The Trump administration is cracking down on businesses that hire illegal immigrants, many of whom use stolen identity records. Immigration officials have moved into high gear to audit companies and verify their workers have legal work permits. The government audited 2,282 employers from October 2017 to May 2018—a 60 percent increase since the previous year. Many of those audits launched after others zeroed in on 100 7-Eleven stores in 17 states.

In June federal agents raided two locations of Corso’s Flower & Garden Center, based in Sandusky, Ohio, making 114 arrests. And an April raid on Southeastern Provision, a meatpacking plant in Bean Station, Tenn., netted 97 people, of whom 11 were arrested with criminal charges and another 86 detained as illegal immigrants subject to deportation, according to ICE spokeswoman Tammy Spicer.

No criminal charges have been filed against either company’s owners, but they could face charges of tax evasion (by paying workers in cash with no documentation) and identity theft. Of 313 Corso employees examined by agents, 123 were found to be using stolen identities, including some Social Security numbers belonging to deceased people. —R.H.

Short-lived tax

An effort to raise money to fight homelessness by taxing businesses in Seattle failed Tuesday under pressure from companies such as Amazon and Starbucks. The City Council passed the tax in May but repealed it Tuesday with a 7-2 vote. Supporters of the tax booed council members and called the vote a betrayal, but Amazon said it was “the right decision for the region’s economic prosperity.” —Lynde Langdon

Rob Holmes

Rob is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute’s mid-career course. Follow Rob on Twitter @SouthernFlyer.

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