Arizona 360 explored an area of the southwestern border where increased manpower and infrastructure over the last 15 years has led to a significant drop in drug and human smuggling.
Lorraine Rivera got a bird's-eye view of Custom and Border Protection's Yuma Sector aboard a U.S. Customs Air and Marine helicopter. Agents patrol a variety of terrains that include sand dunes, rugged mountains and the Colorado River.
In 2005, agents apprehended more than 138,000 people and intercepted nearly 3,000 vehicles carrying contraband. A year later, the Secure Fence Act added 63 miles of fencing and 43 miles of vehicle barriers to the sector. By 2017, apprehensions dipped to nearly 13,000 and vehicle incursions decreased to 10. In that same time frame, the number of agents on duty went from 300 to more than 800.
The number of children and families apprehended in Custom and Border Protection's Yuma Sector has doubled over the last fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. Unaccompanied minors taken into custody went from 2,229 to 4,762. Agents have also apprehended 10,736 family units, an increase of 127 percent from the previous fiscal year. Border Patrol agents claim many are victims of human trafficking. We explored the issue with insight from Javier Osorio, an associate professor at the University of Arizona School of Government and Public Policy, who's an expert on criminal violence in Latin America.
The Santa Cruz River faces an environmental threat that residents, scientists and politicians all agree is looming. It concerns a pipeline that carries raw sewage from Mexico to Arizona. Nancy Montoya reports on the pipeline's value to Southern Arizona, as well as the current risk it poses.
Featured in this story: Ben Lomeli, Hydrologist, Friends of the Santa Cruz; Claire Zugmeyer, Ecologist, The Sonoran Institute; John Kissinger, Nogales Deputy City Manager; Misael Cabrera, Director, Arizona Dept. of Environmental Quality.
For Your Vote 2018, Arizona 360 is seeking interviews with all of the gubernatorial candidates who qualified for the primary ballot. We are focusing on their views about Arizona's economy and education funding. Among the five candidates, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey is seeking a second term.