U.S. Border Patrol agents have rescued a group of 57 illegal immigrants from potentially deadly heat after cartel smugglers abandoned them in the desert.
The group rescued in 108-degree heat on Friday west of Lukeville, Arizona included an underage pregnant female and 36 total minors as young as one, 17 of whom were unaccompanied.
The stranded migrants were from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, according Customs and Border Patrol.
The border in the area, which on the US side is Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, runs only a few hundred feet from a Mexican highway and is physically controlled by a waist-high vehicle barrier and sensors.
After smugglers abandoned the group in the scorching desert, someone among the migrants used a cell phone to call 911 and request a rescue.
Dispatchers in Sonora, Mexico received the call and alerted CBP. Agents from Ajo Station who were patrolling nearby responded immediately, as did agents from CBP Air and Marine Operations.
Several among the group were given fluids to treat for dehydration, but only one required further medical treatment, CBP said.
The underage pregnant female was given intravenous fluids by CBP paramedics and transported to an area hospital for further observation.
The rest of the group was given food and taken to Ajo Station for processing.
'Regardless of the unscrupulous and ill regard for human life attitude by smugglers, Border Patrol Agents work tirelessly to ensure not only the safety and security of our nation but also the safety of those who they come in contact with,' CBP said in a statement.
Photos of the group show children and adults wearing mostly T-shirts, jeans and sneakers.
'Arizona’s desert is a merciless environment for those unprepared for its remote, harsh terrain and unpredictable weather,' CBP said.
Much of the cross-border smuggling of people is believed to be controlled by Mexican drug cartels, which sometimes use large groups of migrants to distract border agents while drug shipments cross elsewhere.
Unlike Mexican and Canadian citizens who cross the border illegally, it is difficult under current law to swiftly deport illegal immigrants from Central American countries, which do not border the U.S.
The delays are compounded if the migrants claim asylum in the US, which many do.
President Donald Trump's directive earlier this year to prosecute for illegal entry all persons caught crossing between ports of entry resulted in the separation of parents, who were held in custody by Homeland Security, from children who were taken into the care of Health and Human Services.
Recent uproar over the policy resulted in Trump issuing an executive order on Wednesday mandating that Homeland Security keep family units in custody together pending criminal proceedings.
The adults in the group rescued on Friday will likely face prosecution under Trump's 'zero tolerance' border policy.
The unaccompanied minors will likely be transferred into the care of HHS and from there many will probably be resettled at various places in the U.S.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.