Mexico Puts Water Barrels in Desert for Migrants
Reeuters, ABCNews.com, Jun. 9
June 9, 2004 — MONTERREY, Mexico (Reuters) — Mexico has placed barrels of water in the desert to lower the number of illegal immigrants who die attempting to cross the border into the United States in scorching temperatures, authorities said on Wednesday.
State-funded migrant welfare organization Grupo Beta told Reuters it has set up four water stations equipped with 55-gallon barrels of water in the Sonora Desert just south of the border with Arizona.
Since last Oct. 1, U.S. Border Patrol agents say, 10 illegal immigrants have died of dehydration as they attempted to walk across the cactus-strewn section of desert.
The death rate is usually much higher in the summer, when temperatures soar above 104 Fahrenheit (40 Celsius). The number of migrants from Mexico and the rest of Latin America who died crossing the border reached 346 in the 12 months to Oct. 1, 2003 — the highest level in three years.
“The project to make drinking water available on this stretch of the Mexican border is new, and it could save many lives during the hot summer season,” Haydee Benetez, a spokeswoman for Grupo Beta in Agua Prieta, said by telephone.
“A lot of illegal migrants who pass through here have already made a long journey across the desert on foot with few supplies or none at all, and are in bad shape before they even get to the frontier,” she added.
The water stations are marked by 30-foot tall flagstaffs to make them visible to migrants above the tall brush and scrub of the desert. Each is equipped with at least one barrel of water.
The stations were donated by the nonprofit organization Humane Borders based in Tucson, Arizona. The organization, which is backed by human rights and faith-based groups, has set up 42 stations on the U.S. side of the border since March 2001.
Group spokeswoman Elizabeth Ohmann said providing water stops for migrants was especially vital this summer, as the rain-starved Sonora Desert region enters a fifth year of drought.
Since last October, U.S. Border Patrol agents in Tucson have rescued 242 migrants along the stretch of border, up from 188 rescues in the same period a year earlier.