9OYS Border Watch
Cleaning up the border: The messy side of illegal immigration
At least once a year Arizona's Game and Fish Department takes spring cleaning to a whole new level. Crews are dispatched to remote areas along the border to pick up garbage. Often times, crews are surprised with what they find. Video by kgun9.comvideo
From the air, pristine Arizona desert suddenly looks like a landfill, as trash discarded by illegal immigrants dot hillsides.
Volunteers filled bag after bag of garbage left behind by border-crossers, mainly empty water bottles, food packages, and old clothing.
AMADO, Ariz (KGUN9-TV) - Several dozen volunteers gathered an estimated 10 tons of trash and debris from just a few acres of a remote area near Green Valley over the weekend, in a state-sponsored annual cleanup of trash left mostly by illegal immigrants.
Arizona's Game and Fish Department conducts the spring cleaning campaign each year. Crews are surprised at what they find.
"There was socks, hats, backpacks, pants, even anti-perspirant, that really surprised me," James Mattioda said.
Saturday's cleanup effort was Mattioda's first. Alongside 40-50 volunteers hiked up the remote, rocky stretch of terrain near Amado. It's a rough walk, tough to do all on foot. It's even a bumpy ride for the sturdiest of vehicles. When Mattioda finally arrived at Lobo Peak, he was shocked at what he saw.
"I didn't understand the scale until I saw it," Mattioda said. "The whole path was littered with backpacks or water bottles. It was huge."
Crews collected bag after bag of garbage, trash left behind in the desert by illegal immigrants.
"This is where the traffic is," Arizona Game and Fish spokesperson Mark Hart said. "The people who left all this trash were probably picked up in this area and taken to Tucson or Phoenix."
Hart tells 9OYS all the trash collected helps shine a new light on the immigration debate.
"It's easy to talk about numbers," Hart said. "But when you see the volume of human beings out there, it really hits home."
9OYS reporter Marcelino Benito saw truck after truck come down the ridge loaded with bags full of debris. It's debris that used to litter the landscape and cause major problems for Arizona wildlife.
"It's hard on pasture land," Hart said. "We're really concerned about all the plastics and even the personal hygiene items."
Arizona Game and Fish officials tell 9OYS they collected close to 10 tons in one day's work. If you missed today's cleanup, crews will be out in the same area tomorrow. Contact Wildlife Manager Karen Klima to RSVP.