I will start out this blog saying there is no intention of a political statement. It is simply my experience. Please do not respond with political statements.
Today I saw 2 young men being detained by the Border Patrol on the side of the road. With temperatures at 24 degrees last night and very windy conditions today it is possible that they asked for help. it is supposed to rain and snow tonight. Their backpacks were put in plastic evidence bags. They were given water. There were no handcuffs. Everyone seemed relaxed and talking comfortably with each other. They were obviously being treated with respect so I'm guessing no drugs or weapons were involved.
It was difficult to watch and I wept. Not knowing what brought these two to this moment in time I realized in many ways these two were lucky. They could have died as have so many.
I have learned so much during my time along the NM and AZ border and as I head for the lower Rio Grande River area my education will continue.
It is difficult for someone to come across the border without paying bribes or being expected to carry drugs and that usually involves a Coyote. Coyotes, the people leading them across the border, often leave the people at the border or abandon them at the first sight of Border Patrol presence. They point towards Phoenix and say it is only a 2-3 day walk and that is how much water and food they are given. In reality it is a 7+ day walk, more likely 10 days if they walk 8 hours a day, so they run out of water and food and are potentially exposed to extreme heat, cold nights, wind, and, at certain times of the year, to monsoon rain and storms. They must walk through desert and over or around mountains.
After many bodies were being found, most having died of exposure, measures were taken, with the placement of Rescue Beacons or Panic Poles. These are high-visibility blinking lights placed on a tower that are powered with solar panels. The tower also has triangular pieces of polished stainless steel that reflect sunlight during the day. Each pole has a red button which sends out a radio signal to the U.S. Border Patrol. Signs on the beacons contain messages in both Spanish and English such as: “If you need help, push red button. U.S. Border Patrol will arrive in one hour.” or "You are in danger of dying. Call for help". The signs also contain a picture symbolizing a person in distress pushing the button. Jugs of water are also at the base of the pole. People who are desperate realize their journey is done and without help - they may die. They push the button.
During my travels I have come across mobile surveillance vehicles that look like little tanks with an extension arm with cameras, hidden trail cams and I often go through border patrol checkpoints that are located far from the border with drug-sniffing dogs. There are planes and helicopters and boats and many Border Patrol vehicles parked in random locations.
I have come across abandoned backpacks and clothing during my hikes and have heard from someone else who once came across discarded children's stuffed dolls. If camping alone, campers are told it is a good idea to set out a few bottles of water at night. as they only want water and if found outside will not knock on a camper door. Discarded water bottles painted black, so as to not reflect light, are also a commonly found item.
I am currently at the southern border of Arizona and New Mexico. I am birding in Arizona and camping in New Mexico .......at a campground with the comforts of electricity for night-time comfort. The closest towns are Portal and Rodeo each with a population of about 60. In the area is one restaurant, one gas station with no personnel. There are no stores. This area is beautiful and not many live here. I am in the area with geographic features called Sky Islands. Sky Islands are localized areas of mountains surrounded by desert plain so there are dramatic changes in environment. During my wanderings I can drive for 30 minutes or more and never see a car.
From where these two had likely crossed the border they must have walked at least 20 hours. Hard to imagine how any could walk to Phoenix.