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Arizona border agents say immigrants seek them out for asylum

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX — There was a time not long ago when immigrants crossing into the Arizona desert illegally would run from the sight of Border Patrol agents.

But that is not the case anymore, according to the U.S. Border Patrol’s Yuma Sector — at least in southwest Arizona.

In fiscal year 2017, the U.S. Border Patrol apprehended nearly 13,000 immigrants, mainly families. So far, Border Patrol officials said they are on track to double that number.

Agents like Jose Garibay said immigrants are crossing between ports of entry and are looking for Border Patrol agents in the barren Arizona desert.

“They were told by smuggling organizations and the smugglers that all they have to do is jump over the wall or however they may cross, seek out an agent, and then they will be able to claim asylum that way,” Garibay said.

“So now you have an agent — instead of attempting to chase people — now they have 50 to 60 families that are looking to them for guidance on what do next.”

Garibay said the Border Patrol has been forced to use resources meant for national security for other purposes, like providing aid to injured immigrants fleeing their homeland.

“Our resources which is meant for our national security mission that we have here is now being allocated to hospital watch,” he said.

“Our agents are having to go to the hospital for injuries of these large groups of individuals who are crossing over the border.”

Most of the undocumented immigrants seeking asylum are coming from Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras, according to the Border Patrol.

The federal agents said immigrants coming up from Central America need to surrender to customs agents at ports of entry rather than out in the desert to a border agent.

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