Agent took blankets provided for crossers, border group says

2013-01-18T00:00:00Z Agent took blankets provided for crossers, border group saysPerla Trevizo Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 18, 2013 12:00 am  • 

A Tucson-based immigrants' rights group says a hidden-camera video it posted on YouTube shows a Border Patrol agent removing clean blankets and food intended for illegal border crossers in distress.

The 33-second video, dated Jan. 8, shows an agent stopping by a clear plastic bag next to four water jugs. The agent opens the bag and looks inside but the video doesn't show its contents. He is then seen walking away with the plastic bag.

"We appreciate the efforts of those who report concerns and continue our dialogue with humanitarian groups as we work toward greater border security and the health and welfare of those who attempt to enter our country illegally," Customs and Border Protection officials said in an email.

"We are currently gathering the facts related to the posted video, as there are any number of possible and appropriate reasons for the agent's actions in this video," the statement said.

The video was shot near Arivaca, about 12 miles north of the border, said Sarah Launius, a spokeswoman with No More Deaths.

"We know that hypothermia can be equally dangerous as dying from heatstroke in the summer. This month has been one of the most severe that Arizona has ever had," Norma Price, a medical adviser for the organization, said in a news release.

"There is no question, people are crossing in the desert and their lives could be saved if they were given blankets and warm clothing," she added.

Temperatures in the area that day were between a low of about 30 degrees and a high of about 60 degrees. The time stamp on the video says 10:18 a.m.

In 2012, 158 remains of illegal border crossers were found, according to an Arizona Daily Star database that uses information from the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office.

Humanitarian organizations, including No More Deaths, leave food, water and blankets on desert trails often traveled by illegal border crossers.

"We've been using some cameras periodically to keep track of the type of use in different areas where we place supplies," Launius said. "We spend a lot of time on trails to figure out where people are going and what are the needs."

Last year, another hidden-camera video showed Border Patrol agents vandalizing caches of water, the group said. The video shows three agents walking up to the same site near Arivaca. The second agent is seen kicking six plastic water jugs one by one before continuing their route. In response to this incident, then-Sector Chief Rick Barlow sent a memo to agents instructing them to respect humanitarian workers and provisions, Launius said.

"What has become clear from the video is that we have Border Patrol agents removing critical aid supplies from the site," Launius said.

The group also posted pictures from Jan. 15 that show water jugs slashed with a knife and cans of beans emptied on blankets in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, although they don't have proof of who did it.

Contact reporter Perla Trevizo at ptrevizo@azstarnet.com or at 573-4213. On Twitter: @Perla_Trevizo.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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