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Saturday, 30 September 2000

Immigrants dying in record numbers

By Tim Steller
ARIZONA DAILY STAR

Border Patrol apprehensions in Southern Arizona increased by more than 30 percent during the fiscal year that ends today.

The number of known migrant deaths in the region also leaped to a record number this fiscal year - 71. That includes the drowning of a Mexican woman in Nogales Thursday.

On the increase

Apprehensions in the Border Patrol's Tucson sector:
FY 1990: 53,061
FY 1995: 227,528
FY 2000*: 612,785
*Through Wednesday; the fiscal year ends today.

As of Thursday morning, agents in the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector this fiscal year had arrested illegal entrants 612,785 times. That was up from a total of 470,449 apprehensions in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 last year.

The sector covers covers all of Southern Arizona except Yuma County.

Some individual border-crossers may be counted more than once, because they were apprehended multiple times during the year.

The rate of increase in apprehensions is also increasing. Last fiscal year, the number of apprehensions in the sector was up 21 percent from the year before.

It's no mystery why apprehensions keep going up, according to Joe Pankoke, the agency's spokesman in Tucson.

The Border Patrol's operations around San Diego and El Paso continue to close off those stretches of border to illegal entrants. That keeps funneling migrants into Arizona, despite the continuing buildup of agents here.

In addition, there are ever more agents employed by or detailed to the Tucson Sector. The approximately 1,400 agents in the sector now amount to 17 percent more than at this time last year. More agents mean more apprehensions.

Among the deaths of border-crossers, 38 victims succumbed to heat, and three to cold, Pankoke said. Fourteen died in vehicle accidents, five were homicide victims, two drowned and two died of pre-existing medical conditions. The causes of another six deaths were unknown.

The Border Patrol has counted 1,332 "rescues" during the year, Pankoke said. Those are situations in which agents found a migrant in medical distress.