Border Patrol Is Caging Migrants Outdoors During Deadly Arizona Heatwave - The Intercept

On Thursday afternoon, The Intercept observed roughly 50 migrants confined in a chain-link pen at the Ajo Border Patrol station, a highly remote outpost two hours west of Tucson. From a ridge overlooking the Border Patrol’s facility, the migrants could be seen gathered under a carport-like structure, crowding themselves into a single, narrow strip of shade to escape the desert sun. The only furniture available was a short stack of metal bleachers baking in the extreme heat.

Just one day earlier, Tucson set a new record with 11 consecutive days of temperatures exceeding 111 degrees. The unincorporated community of Ajo and surrounding areas have been even hotter, with Thursday’s high hitting 114 degrees.

The Border Patrol “is prioritizing expeditiously transporting noncitizens encountered in this desert environment, which is particularly dangerous during current weather conditions, to USBP facilities where individuals can receive medical care, food, water,” the statement continued.

CBP did not answer several specific questions from The Intercept, including how long people are being kept outside in the heat, whether children are among those who have been kept outside, and whether anyone held outside has required emergency medical care. The agency did, however, reiterate its standard practice to provide medical screening for migrants upon arrival to the Ajo station and said that migrants held outside are provided with a large canopy, large fans, hot meals, water, and bathrooms.

No such canopy was visible during The Intercept’s observation of the Ajo station on Thursday.

The Border Patrol station in Ajo can process a few hundred people a day, and on Monday upward of 800 to 1,000 people turned themselves in at the border wall, said a second humanitarian volunteer, who asked not to be named and has spent weeks providing aid at the border wall south of Ajo.

On Wednesday, officials in Maricopa County, north of Ajo, reported that at least 18 people have died from heat in Phoenix this year, with 69 other cases under investigation.

In the desert to the south, the extreme heat makes an already deadly landscape all the more the lethal. On Friday, Humane Borders, a nonprofit group that provides water for migrants crossing the desert and works with the Office of the Pima County Medical Examiner to map migrant deaths, reported the recovery of 13 sets of human remains on the border in the past month, including four people who had died within a day of their discovery.

The Intercept observed conditions at the Ajo facility for more than an hour as the temperature hovered around 108 degrees. During that time, Border Patrol agents lined up approximately 30 men and marched them to another area of the facility, leaving roughly as many people behind. Those people were still standing in the heat when The Intercept left the scene. Large floodlights above the enclosure suggested it was also being used for overnight detention.

Though most of the detained migrants appeared to be men, the ages and genders of everyone inside the pen were impossible to determine at a distance. Few, if any, of the people had hats or other sun-protective clothing. Most wore T-shirts; some were shirtless. At least one large fan and misting machine were visible at the enclosure’s edge, but both were positioned in full sunlight and directed toward the metal bleachers. Scores of empty plastic water bottles littered the ground. At one point, a vulture circled overhead.

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The Intercept

Locations: Ajo, AZ Tucson, AZ Phoenix, AZ Maricopa County, AZ Arizona 

Organizations: The Intercept United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Humane Borders Office of the Pima County Medical Examiner 

Tags: Migration and Immigration Extreme Heat Human Rights 

Type: Headlines