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3 immigrants rescued by BORSTAR unit

March 14, 2002|By DARRN SIMON

Staff Writer

WESTMORLAND — As temperatures rose earlier this week into the upper 80s, three undocumented immigrants found themselves lost and in advanced stages of dehydration in the desert west of here.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Border Patrol El Centro Sector's newest rescue squad — the Border Patrol Search Trauma and Rescue Team — was summoned to find the three.

The BORSTAR unit was notified of the missing group by another three immigrants who said they had been part of a group of six that had crossed the border illegally.

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The immigrants said they had been without food or water for eight hours and had left the three members of their group who were in poor condition to find help.

The BORSTAR unit began the search near the Highway 86 checkpoint. The agents separated into two teams and started to backtrack following the group's footprints. A Border Patrol aircraft joined in the search.

After two hours of searching rugged terrain, the agents located the three immigrants near Three Flags Ranch about a mile north of the checkpoint. Agents immediately treated the group for dehydration and attempted to cool them.

The Mexican consulate was contacted about the group and all six voluntarily returned to Mexico.

The Border Patrol is asking for support from Imperial and Mexicali residents in reporting individuals attempting to cross the border illegally, particularly with the summer approaching.

Last fiscal year the Border Patrol reported 95 immigrant deaths in the Imperial Valley. Those numbers include those who died in the desert, from drowning and from vehicle accidents.

Border Patrol officials have said they are hopeful with changes in the coverage area and with the BORSTAR unit fully in place, the number of deaths will decrease this year.

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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