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Humanitarian groups see slight jump in border crossers

Crossings had declined since end of Title 42 enforcement
Posted at 7:12 PM, Jul 14, 2023

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — A surge of undocumented immigrants crossing the border was expected as the government stopped enforcement of restrictions on asylum seekers under Title 42.

Instead, border crossing declined. Now, humanitarian groups that work to keep desert crossers alive say they’re starting to see a slight increase.

This heat spell has lasted a long time, but most of us have access to plenty of water and some air conditioning. It's another thing, though, if you are someone trying to cross from Mexico into Arizona through the open desert.

The heat is also a struggle, like the case for the Tucson Samaritans, if you are a member of a humanitarian group trying to help keep them alive.

Groups like the Tucson Samaritans and Humane Borders know the law allows them to do work like placing water in the desert to prevent deaths. The law does not allow them to help people enter the US and move deeper into the interior.

These humanitarian aid groups say they saw a drop in the number of desert crossings right after the federal government lifted Title 42 restrictions on asylum seekers about two months ago.

Gail Kocourek of Tucson Samaritans thinks the heat is discouraging desert crossings at the moment, but her group is also seeing a small bump in the numbers of people who will try to cross. Not a hundred at a time as they saw before Title 42 lifted, but maybe twenty or thirty in a group.

She said, “There's two different groups of people: the asylum seekers who want to be found, and the migrants who don't want to be found because they can't ask for asylum. They're coming for financial reasons, and they're coming to work in the fields.”

Kocourek and Dora Rodriguez of Humane Borders say more people are risking desert crossings because of rules the Biden Administration reinstated after Title 42 lifted. The rules reduce the chance someone can enter the US and pursue an asylum claim if they turn themselves in at the border.

Rodriguez says more than 40 years ago, she was one of the people crossing the desert. Twelve people in her group died in the heat. She almost died, too.

Now, she's working to save lives. She said volunteers have plenty of water, and are keenly aware of the heat, but sometimes conditions catch up with them too.

“I was in Sahuarita with Humane Borders about a week and a half ago delivering water and changing water tanks. And I start feeling nauseated. And I thought, 'Oh, this is not good,' but you're aware. You know what to do next, go to the shade, drink water.”

But she says many migrants come from the tropics and do not understand what the desert can do.