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SPECIAL REPORT: Patrolling beyond the hot and dry desert

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - Out of the more than 100 miles of desert that Yuma Sector Border Patrol agents oversee. there's one area, where they can not travel by land.

As temperatures rise, Border Patrol says they see more and more migrants attempting to make their way from Mexico, which is nearly 50 meters away to U.S. soil, and say many people underestimate the strength of the water currents.

"It’s all about preservation of life, we make sure we maintain a presence here in the Colorado River," said BP Yuma Sector Marine Instructor Michael Espinoza.

It's a one mile-stretch starting from the Morelos Dam.

Michael Espinoza with the Border Patrol Boat Unit says the Yuma sector is not like other southern border sectors.

"The thing about the boat unit and the uniqueness of it, is that were actually patrolling the triangle of California, Mexico and Arizona," continued Espinoza.

Earlier this year, they added a dock on the Mexico side in efforts to save migrant lives.

"Cause that is where we were seeing the most amount of people that were coming across the border, you know jumping into the water and making their way across so the water levels have a tendency to change," Espinoza explained.

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in Fiscal Year 2022 there were 451 water-related rescues across the southwest border.

That's almost double compared to the year prior when there were 249 rescues.

Espinoza share the latest numbers for the Yuma sector.

"In the last two months, since we have seen a change in the temperature, it has been at least eight rescues," he said.

Saying there is not one specific age group or gender that they rescue the most.

In addition, he explained different maneuvers they use while on patrol. The first is a pivot turn.

"Is to serve the purpose if we see a threat ahead of us, we will. The smart thing is you know being on a boat is to turn around as quickly as possible and is to get away from the area," Espinoza said.

The other is what they call a bucket stop.

"It's an emergency stop, you know if we seen an object or someone under the water pop up you know it is for us to stop immediately and avoiding any type of collision," Espinoza said.

Espinoza also shared the biggest misconception people have is how quickly and drastically the level of water changes in the river.

Article Topic Follows: Special Reports

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Valeria Rodriguez

Valeria Rodriguez joined the KYMA team as a multimedia journalist in June 2023.
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