13 On Your side’s Arlette Yousif brings us an exclusive interview with Yuma Sector Border Patrol Chief Chris Clem
YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - It’s difficult not to think about border security in Yuma County, as the Yuma Sector is known as one of the nation’s highest apprehension locations.
Undocumented immigrants from at least 94 countries have passed through our community, according to Yuma Sector Border Patrol Chief Chris Clem.
A long way from home for many who hope to call the United States their new home.
“The typical travel trend for people coming into Yuma, they're spending the majority of their travel time in the airplanes. They're flying into Mexico City, flying into a border town like Mexico or Tijuana, and then driving up to the border. And most of them are coming through areas where it's a very short trek,” says Yuma Sector Border Patrol Chief Chris Clem.
But a short trek could easily turn deadly in our local climate.
“As the temperatures start heating up, and we're not gonna cool off again until late in the fall. So what looks like a one or two-mile trek with one bottle of water ends up becoming a lifesaving issue for us down the road,” explains Chief Clem.
Still, the numbers don’t lie. Thousands upon thousands of people from various countries take the risk to cross.
Daniel Lazuna made it here from Nicaragua.
“Fleeing from the regime we have in the country. Living off everything. Because over there, if you are an opponent of the government, you are politically persecuted,” says Lazuna.
A woman who will remain unnamed arrived at the Yuma Sector in early May says she fears for her life after being raped.
“I have a daughter due to that rape. It’s not easy because one is raised with values and respect for life in many aspects. And one brings a daughter into the world with all the love and you don't resent that pain you experienced because my daughter is my world.”
Lazuna says he’s traveled two and a half months to get to the United States, losing everything he owns along the way.
“I spent a lot of time in jungle places. Traveled on train. Apart from that, it has been dangerous. Just so I could get where I am now. It has cost me a lot of sacrifice, a lot of work. Beg to God first and foremost. Hope to God the authorities in charge here not have me return to Mexico,” explains Lazuna.
Title 42 continues to be the topic of discussion along border towns. Though Chief Clem says Yuma's situation is unique.
“The majority, and when I say majority… close to 90% are Title 8 apprehensions, which means they're gonna be set up as soon as they're encountered. They're set up for removal proceedings,” says Chief Clem.
The concern over Title 42 is the unknown factor of whether or not numbers at the Yuma Border will increase or stay the same.
“Our primary mission is border security. And the flow does impact that, but we're doing everything we can to get more agents out there, getting the technology out there so we can make the arrest of those that are trying to evade us. Because we don't know who we've encountered until we actually make that arrest. So, when people are evading us or we're having to track people out, it's important that our agents are out there to make these arrests. And so we have had a significant increase in the migrants that we've encountered with criminal records, sexual assaults, sexual convictions, things like that. Those are people that if we're not out there doing our job could get into your neighborhoods. And that's what we want to definitely avoid 'cause we wanna keep America safe, keep our community safe,” explains Chief Clem.
Chief Clem says something must be done.
“We're still operating under 1986 and 1990 immigration framework here in 2022. So, I do think we really do need immigration reform, and that's gonna come in the form of legislative fixes. There's gonna be some policy decisions that need to be made right to discourage this exploitation and people taking these dangerous journeys into the United States,” says Chief Clem.
The Yuma Sector continues to see an average of 1,000 undocumented immigrants every single day.
This fiscal year, there have been nearly 180,000 apprehensions in the Yuma Sector. There were over 27,000 just last month in April.