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Smugglers are transporting migrants to a remote border crossing in Arizona, overwhelming US border agents

Gerston Miranda and his wife were among thousands of migrants who recently arrived at this remote area on Arizona’s southern border with Mexico, sneaking into the country through a gap in the wall and walking overnight about 14 miles (23 kilometers) with two school-aged daughters to surrender to Border Patrol agents.

“There is no security in my country,” said the 28-year-old Ecuadorian who lost his job after his employer was forced to close owing to criminal extortion. “You cannot work without security. You can’t live.”

A shift in smuggling routes has brought an influx of migrants here from nations as diverse as Senegal, Bangladesh, and China, leading the Border Patrol to seek assistance from other federal agencies and drawing attention to an issue vital in next year’s presidential elections.

With hundreds of migrants crossing daily in the area, the US government on Monday indefinitely closed the nearby international crossing between Lukeville, Arizona, and Sonoyta, Mexico, to free Customs and Border Protection officers assigned to the port of entry to assist with transportation and other support. In addition, the DHS has partially blocked a few other border crossings in recent months, including a pedestrian crossing in San Diego and a bridge in Eagle Pass, Texas.

Critics of the plan include Arizona Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs, the state’s two U.S. senators, the governor of Mexico’s Sonora state, and the leadership of the adjacent Tohono O’odham Nation. Hobbs persuaded President Joe Biden to redeploy the 243 National Guard personnel already stationed in the Tucson sector to assist in reopening the Lukeville crossing.

A dozen Border Patrol officials in olive green uniforms stood guard over 400 migrants who had spent the night beside the towering wall of steel bollards, draped in shiny Mylar blankets they later dumped among saguaro cacti and Palo Verde trees.

Smugglers are transporting migrants to a remote border crossing in Arizona, overwhelming US border agents

The Lukeville area has recently gained appeal as a crossing point from Mexico into the United States. It’s one of the most visible cases of migrants moving to a distant area, putting the Border Patrol on their tail.

Because Lukeville is so rural, Border Patrol staffing is limited, therefore traffickers in the territory controlled by Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel direct individuals there.

According to Chris Clem, a retired Yuma, Arizona, sector head, it is part of smugglers’ strategy to spread agents as thinly as possible, forcing highway checkpoints to close and other resources to be redirected for processing migrants. The distance puts “enormous strain” on the Border Patrol, he claims.

The National Border Patrol Council’s Tucson-based vice president, Art Del Cueto, said the union wants harsher measures to dissuade migrants from entering. He claims that the problem isn’t so much a lack of agents as it is a surplus of migrants.

The border is a key concern for Americans, especially Republicans, heading into next year’s presidential elections, and immigration issues could be a negative for Biden, a Democrat, if he stands for reelection.

A national AP-NORC poll conducted in November revealed that over half of U.S. people believe boosting border security should be a “high priority” for the federal government, with three in ten calling it a “moderate priority.” Republicans were more inclined than Democrats to rate it as a high priority.

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