Border Patrol raids aid camp, arrests 4 from Mexico

Associated Press

Phoenix — Border Patrol agents descended on a medical camp set up in the Arizona desert to provide refuge and water for migrants in the scorching summer heat, arresting four migrants who had just crossed into the U.S. from Mexico.

The Border Patrol said agents on Wednesday tracked the men walking north on a known smuggling route before the four entered the camp run by No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes, an organization that provides care for migrants along the border.

The Border Patrol said talks between agents and camp representatives on gaining access to question the men about their citizenship and legal status were unsuccessful. Agents then obtained a search warrant and swooped into the camp.

The aid group said a helicopter, 15 trucks and 30 armed agents were used in arresting four people receiving medical care as desert temperatures exceeded 100 degrees. The group called it “an unprecedented show of force” and a “clear violation of international humanitarian law.”

“This incident was a targeted attack on humanitarian aid,” No More Deaths spokeswoman Alicia Dinsmore said.

The Border Patrol said a similar incident occurred a month ago and that negotiations resulted in the surrender of eight people who were taken into custody. Those included two individuals with “prior significant criminal records in the United States” and two needing medical care at a hospital, the agency said.

The agency said it “wants to stress the dangers of illegally crossing the border. If anyone needs help, the Border Patrol advises them to call 911 immediately as delays could result in loss of life.”

The enforcement action comes after President Donald Trump has made securing the border a top priority of his administration, including a signature campaign promise to build a wall along the border with Mexico. His presidency has coincided with a big drop off in immigrants crossing the border from Mexico, but agents have been arresting more people in the country illegally.

Dinsmore says the aid group is composed of medically trained volunteers who have first-responder certification and provide care, food and water in remote areas of the Arizona desert. The group has been providing aid for 13 years and has a verbal agreement with the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector to operate there. The camp is open most of the year.

About six to eight volunteers, including one doctor, were at the camp Thursday when agents arrested the four people. They were a little over 11 miles (17.7 kilometers) north of the international border near the small town of Arivaca.

Dinsmore said agents have arrested migrants who received aid a couple of times but that the large-scale operation on Thursday was unprecedented. She said the group was most troubled by the fact that agents apparently had tracked the migrants for 18 or so miles (28.9 or so kilometers) but waited until they were at the camp to arrest them.

Dinsmore said the group has noticed more surveillance from agents since the new administration took over.