Luke Turf, Tucson Citizen, Apr. 1
Photos of a temporary holding pen the Border Patrol uses to keep suspected illegal immigrants out of the sun during processing irked Linda Bayless.
The 50-year-old Tucson nurse volunteers her services to Samaritans on Patrol, a group that helps illegal immigrants who are found in distress in the desert.
“It’s like the detention centers in the Middle East. It’s Guantanamo (Bay),” Bayless said. “It’s extremely cruel to hold people like animals in cages like that.”
Border Patrol spokesman Andy Adame said the opposite about the Border Safety Initiative, a facility on the Tohono O’odham reservation featured in Tuesday’s Tucson Citizen. The BSI is intended to detain illegal immigrants in shaded areas while they wait for transport to Tucson, Adame said.
“It is all humanitarian,” Adame said.
Before the BSI, Adame said, manpower was wasted guarding groups of about 20 immigrants while agents waited for transportation to Tucson. And the immigrants were getting sick in the meantime, Adame said.
The immigrants are often in bad physical shape from two to five days of roaming the desert and can’t wait in the sun for two to three hours for vans to get them, he said.
Glenn Spencer, president of the American Border Patrol, a Sierra Vista-based group that tracks illegal immigration, believes it’s a humanitarian effort.
“Even just processing them through the (identification) system is going to take more holding facilities,” Spencer said.
Adame said the holding pen has nothing to do with a lack of detention space and everything to do with keeping the immigrants in humane conditions with medical attention, water and food.
Spencer suggested taking it a step further by educating illegal immigrants in detention about how to better their lives in their own countries before releasing them, then giving them a bus ticket home rather than dropping them off at the border so they can try again.
Adame said BSI makes it easier for medical professionals to find the injured when they’re in a fixed location instead ofin smaller groups scattered across the desert.
But to Bayless, the situation is reminiscent of Japanese-Americans who were detained during World War II. Though the migrants are here illegally, Bayless said, it’s hypocritical of the United States to imprison them in such a fashion when U.S. employers encourage illegal immigration by hiring them.