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Border Patrol bringing in more agents ahead of heat wave

PHOENIX — In response to a sweltering forecast, more agents have been called in to the U.S. Border Patrol’s Search, Trauma, and Rescue unit.

The BORSTAR is a unit made up of volunteer border agents who receive specialized training and are deployed to areas of concern and can provide assistance to people in distress, especially with potentially record-breaking heat.

Heat will not smugglers from leading a group of individuals into the desert.

“For the smuggling organizations, this is a business,” said Tucson Sector Border Patrol Agent Shelton McKenzie. “In order for them to get paid, they must attempt to cross their product [illegal immigrants] through the desert.

“The Sonoran desert is extremely hot. A lot of these migrants who are traversing through the desert, can never carry enough food or water to make the journey. That’s when migrants and smugglers alike find themselves perishing in the desert,” he said.

According to numbers released by the Border Patrol, the number of people being rescued in the region is increasing, while the number of fatalities is declining. Officials said the positive trend is a direct result of agents being better prepared to render aid to immigrants who are in need of assistance.

From October 2011 through May 2012, there were 265 desert rescues and 115 deaths. From October 2012 through May 2013, there have been 374 rescues and 99 deaths, though some officials believe that number to be higher.

Several bodies of immigrants have been found in the last week in Arizona. Agents in the Tucson sector rescued more than 170 people from the desert during a 30-day stretch in May and June when temperatures were lower than expected in the coming days.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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