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Bird’s eye view of illegal border crossing dangers

CBS 13's April Hettinger gets an exclusive look from up above

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - U.S. Border Patrol agents with Yuma Sector have performed hundreds of rescues this year. Now, here's an exclusive look at what these rescues look like from up above.

Migrants travel for days in triple digit temperatures with little to no water, and turn to 9-1-1 for help.

James Schuetzler, director of Air Marine Operations, says aircraft is efficient for locating migrants in distress, and the time can be the difference between life and death.

"We can fly in a straight line, generally, between points which gets us there quicker where it might take a border patrol agent on the ground two hours to get to something, we can get there in maybe 30 minutes, but we have very limited resources," Schuetzler explained.

The Yuma Sector helicopter squad is equipped with eight units that hover from Ajo, Arizona through El Centro. The aircraft aren't medically equipped so their primary goal is to find migrants in distress quickly.

With the heavy terrain, it can take three to five days to trek from the border to I-8.

"Even if you're trying to walk directly north, you have to cross mountains," Schuetzler stated. "There's no way to get north to the interstate without crossing mountains."

Yuma Sector reported 15 deaths so far this fiscal year.

On the other side of the border, Ricardo Zarabia, coordinator for San Luis Rio Colorado C5I in Mexico, warns migrants about getting scammed and abandoned by their smugglers.

"A lot of times, the immigrants have been lied to," Zarabia said, translated from Spanish. "Their smugglers make them believe that they can make it across in one day, but we know that's not true."

Almost 60,000 migrants have been apprehended so far this year, putting themselves and border patrol agents at risk.

"Migrants who cross the border illegally find themselves susceptible to bandit activity such as robberies and physical violence," said Yuma Sector Chief Chris Clem.

Chief Clem wants to drive home one simple message: it's dangerous, it's hot and it's illegal.

"So, for anyone who's thinking of entering the United States illegally, the message is simple. Do not," Chief Clem stated.

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April Hettinger

April was born and raised in San Diego where she loved the beach town and her two dogs, Lexi and Malibu. She decided to trade the beach for the snow and advanced her education at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

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