June 25, 2021

Arizona 360 explores increase in border apprehensions and migrants’ journeys

Lorraine Rivera travels across Pima and Yuma counties for a firsthand look at enforcement and rescues.

Since the start of the year, the number of apprehensions along the southwest border with Mexico has increased each month, based on data from Customs and Border Protection. The inflated numbers are also due in part to increased recidivism because of the public health directive known as Title 42 that allows CBP to quickly expel people back into Mexico, according to what academics with expertise in immigration have told Arizona 360. Lorraine Rivera explored the stories behind the increase with an up-close look at enforcement in Yuma and Pima counties and interviews with immigrants about their journeys north.

With highs in the triple digits, agents with the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector can get 30 to 40 emergency calls a day. Their tools for reaching people in distress in the Sonoran Desert include helicopters and GPS technology. Arizona 360 saw how pilots coordinate with agents on the ground during a helicopter ride with Marine and Air Operations in Pima County’s west desert region. Rivera also joined an agent at the border wall outside of the community of Sasabe where she encountered multiple migrants who discussed the money demanded by smugglers to cross.


In Yuma, Border Patrol agents process anywhere from 200 to 500 people each day along 126 linear miles of border with Mexico. About 105 of those miles were reconstructed with fencing that stands between 18 to 30 feet tall. Border Patrol Yuma Sector Chief Chris Clem discussed enforcement trends in the area and how cartels are profiting off the arrival of large groups at the border.

Arizona 360 also learned more about the Yuma County Sheriffs Office’s role in border security from Sheriff Leon Wilmot. Wilmot discussed how the National Guard is also assisting his office and why he’s concerned a potential increase in border-related crimes could strain resources.


For migrants processed and released from federal custody, non-governmental organizations like Casa Alitas in Tucson are sometimes their next stop. The nonprofit provides shelter, medical aid and assistance helping people get to their next destination. Lorraine Rivera visited the facility to learn more about the services it offers. She also spoke to a father from Nicaragua who arrived at Casa Alitas with his wife and son about the dangers they faced along the way before finding refuge at the shelter.


For migrants allowed to enter the United States rather than being expelled under Title 42, their physical journey to the country then leads into a legal one. Next, they can find themselves entrenched in a court system that can take years to navigate. A process that longtime immigration attorney Patricia Mejia describes as frustrating and under resourced. She discussed the added impacts of current immigration trends.

Arizona 360
Arizona 360 airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on PBS 6 and Saturdays at 8 p.m. on PBS 6 PLUS. See more from Arizona 360.
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