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Arpaio: Federal government should pay for desert rescues

PHOENIX — The federal government should pay for immigrants to be rescued out of the Arizona desert, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said in a Thursday press release.

“If the federal government, for whatever reason, cannot secure our borders, it should be their responsibility, and not Arizona taxpayers, to pay for these rescues,” he said in the release, adding that the government should also cover the cost to remove the bodies of immigrants who died while attempting to cross the border.

Four people were rescued from the desert since Saturday. A portion of a skull from an immigrant who died last year was also found.

“Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies have investigated 14 deaths since June in and around Gila Bend, an area known for human trafficking. Desert crossers are dying in unknown numbers due to the desert’s brutal conditions and excessively high temperatures,” said Arpaio in the release. “In addition to 14 dead, over 30 individuals have been rescued from the same area this summer.”

Arpaio also announced his agency would be placing wooden crosses in the desert as a reminder that crossing the desert is dangerous. The crosses will also be numbered and equipped with GPS devices so an immigrant who calls for help can be found quickly.

“Every life is precious,” said Arpaio. “It is our duty to preserve the peace and protect the public, no matter their national status or citizenry.”

Arpaio said each desert rescue or body recovery costs taxpayers thousands of dollars.