June 7, 2006

Cell phone saves immigrants lost in Arizona

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A group of stranded illegal
immigrants facing death in the parched Arizona desert saved
themselves by using a cell phone to call rescue services, the
U.S. Border Patrol said.

The group of eight Mexicans got lost in the desert
southeast of Tacna, Arizona, and called for help early on
Wednesday after their guides abandoned them during a two-day
trek across the border from Mexico.

Disoriented and without food or water, they used a cell
phone to dial 911. Rescuers dispatched helicopters and located
the group shortly before dawn, the Yuma Sector of the U.S.
Border Patrol said in a statement.

President George W. Bush visited Yuma on Tuesday as part of
a tour to drum up support for an immigration overhaul that
seeks to give millions of illegal immigrants a pathway to U.S.
citizenship and tighten security on the Mexico border.

Arizona is the principal route for mostly Mexican migrants
seeking a new life in the United States. Last year more than
260 died trekking north over the desert, where summer
temperatures reach highs of around 120 degrees F (49 C).

This year, the Border Patrol has stepped up flights over
the scorching, cactus-strewn wastes in a bid to save more
lives. So far agents have rescued 309 migrants in the Yuma area
since October 1, up from 203 in the same period a year earlier.

"This summer we are not going to be caught off guard ... we
are definitely better prepared," said Richard Hays, the Border
Patrol's spokesman in Yuma.

The number of recorded migrant deaths in the desert state
has dropped to 107 in the eight months since October from 124
in the same period a year earlier, Border Patrol figures show.