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Border crisis hits close to home

PIMA COUNTY, Ariz. (CNN, KYMA/KECY) - As a federal appeals court weighs a controversial Texas immigration law, the border crisis in Arizona is growing.

Officials say a recent surge of migration in the state is overwhelming resources.

Paul Nixon and Laurel Grindy help migrants in distress in southern Arizona which is now the busiest migrant crossing on the U.S.-Mexico border. 

300,000 migrants have been apprehended in the Tuscon Border Patrol Sector from October to February.

That's about 64 percent more than the number of migrants apprehended in the Del Rio Sector, which includes Eagle Pass, Texas, the epicenter of the border battle between Texas and the Biden administration.

Many migrants walk for miles up and down steep hills to this makeshift camp where they wait for border patrol, like Mirta from Guatemala.

The mother of seven boys, ages four to 16, wants to go by her first name only and said extreme poverty in her home country leaves mothers with an impossible choice.

"In the ranching world, you're always around people from south of the border," stated Lori Lindsay, Tres Bellotas Ranch.

The camp is on cattle rancher Lori Lindsay’s property, a lifelong Democrat who is now an independent because she says Democrats are weak and Republicans who call the border issue have it wrong.

She says it’s a humanitarian crisis.

"When you say invasion, it's as if you're being attacked or if you're in danger, we're not in danger.  I would just like people to not lose their humanity," Lindsay said.

Lindsay says she sympathizes with migrants but worries because the camp has no sanitation facilities and to keep warm, migrants build fires.

"It's not just our ranch that could go up in flames. This is our livelihood. This is our home," Lindsay explained

She calls on the federal government to hire more border patrol agents.

John Modlin leads the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector, 262 miles from Arizona's border with Mexico.

Here, the border wall looks like the spine of a giant beast resting on jagged peaks.

"By far the most dangerous place on the southwest border to cross," said John Modlin, Chief Patrol Agent of the US Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector.

Modlin says one of his biggest frustrations is that the cartels smuggle thousands of migrants in the most remote areas in the east side of Arizona, bogging down his border patrol agents there, while the cartels smuggle drugs and bad guys on the west side. 

“So what we're not doing is actively patrolling for the people that are trying to get away from us," Chief Modlin said.

He says his team has identified 30,000 "gotaways" or people entering the Tucson Sector and evading arrest so far this fiscal year.

But he just doesn't have enough four-wheel drive vehicles and agents to chase them down.

Air and Marine operations show us the trails atop mountains used by these smugglers and migrants who don't want to get caught.

"Many times they're trafficking narcotics. It could be a criminal or someone that possibly has mal intent towards the United States," Modlin shared.

All while many of Modlin's border patrol agents respond to what he calls a humanitarian mission, making repeated hours-long drives in unforgiving terrain to apprehend parents like Mirta.

"She says that she left her seven children in Guatemala with her dad," Mirta spoke.

The Guatemalan mother who like so many migrants arrive with a crushed heart in search for opportunity to feed their family.

Officials in Pima County say they've received assurances from the federal government that more money is on the way to help pay for humanitarian migrant assistance.

Article Topic Follows: Immigration

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