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Border union concerned about rising number of 'got aways' in Tucson Sector

Posted at 12:50 PM, May 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-27 15:50:57-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — More than 178,000 migrants were encountered at the US-Mexico border in April.

That's the highest one-month total in two decades according to Customs and Border Protection.

Although that doesn't take into account an even bigger concern for National Border Patrol Council Vice President Art Del Cueto.

"One of the main issues that affects Tucson Sector is the got aways," said Del Cueto. "Not enough focus has been done and put on these got aways."

Del Cueto says they estimate there have been more than 60,000 "got aways" in the Tucson Sector this fiscal year.

An estimated 60,000 "got aways" so far this fiscal year in the Tucson Sector

"They currently lead the country in got aways," Del Cueto said. "Those are the individuals that did that extra to try to avoid apprehension, to try to avoid detection, and those are where I believe are your true hardened criminals are. We're not talking about people who are from South America or Central America. We're talking about people from all over the world."

The Washington Post reports border agents are busy attending to migrant families and unaccompanied children, which allows nearly 1,000 people per day to sneak into the U.S. along the southwest border.

"When you're seeing so many unaccompanied minors turning themselves in it removes the focus of the actual agents and the mission," according to Del Cueto. "It's removing them from areas on the line that are now exposed to the criminal cartels, to the drug traffickers, to the people who are smuggling individuals who have a higher criminal background, and to allow the sex traffickers.

"What it's doing is it's creating gaps in Arizona in particular, because a lot of these individuals that are being detained, that are turning themselves in, it's further for an agent here than say in areas of Texas to go from the area they apprehend them to an actual processing center."

Migrant apprehension by CBP

Customs and Border Protection has spent more than $1 billion to update surveillance technology and cameras.

They can more easily detect illegal crossings, but catching them is another issue.

Del Cueto says that's not just a Southern Arizona problem.

"People need to understand that these issues don't stop here. These people are not just staying here, the drugs are not staying here, it's affecting everyone in the country. It's going to affect middle America, it's going to affect schools throughout the United States. It is frustrating."

The national border union vice president says another big concern is drug trafficking.

According to Del Cueto, the cartels are smuggling drugs through remote areas of Pima County, taking advantage of agents busy transporting migrant families and unaccompanied children to processing.

"It's being communicated to me that the agents out there are seeing meth, they're seeing heroin, they're seeing a large number of fentanyl," explained Del Cueto. "That's again coming through the United States. As I said, that doesn't stay here. It goes all over the country."

CBP drug seizure

As a member of the National Border Council, Del Cueto is calling on help from Washington.

"People need to come together and figure out we have a problem right now," Del Cueto said. "The American public deserves border security, and regardless of what side of the isle you're at right now everyone deserves to be safe in their home."

Despite the current situation at the border, Del Cueto says his border patrol agents remain committed to their mission.

"We have very dedicated agents that patrol out nation's borders. They come to work each and every day regardless of who is in charge, who the President is, they believe in the mission and they're still out there doing a very tough job."

International border in Tucson Sector

Del Cueto is concerned as we head into the summer months.

In 2020, there were 220 undocumented border crosser deaths reported in Pima County alone.