Border Patrol adds new alert system for migrants stranded in the California desert


CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KSWB) – The U.S. Border Patrol has added a new alert system in its San Diego Sector that could help save the lives of migrants stranded during the treacherous journey beyond the U.S.-Mexico border.

Four rescue beacons now line heavily trafficked areas in the region. The rescue beacons are 30-foot, self-contained strobe lights charged by solar panels. The rescue beacon has a red button and instructions in both English and Spanish, telling migrants that they can activate the system and then wait for help.

“When activated, the San Diego sector tactical communications center broadcasts the alert to agents who immediately respond,” said Acting Deputy Chief Patrol Agent Scott Garrett in a media event Thursday.

The rescue beacons are not a first for U.S. Border Patrol but are the first of their kind in the San Diego Sector. Garrett said the system has prevented migrants from dying in other areas after they enter the U.S. illegally but get trapped amid rough terrain or a loss of direction.

“Since the first installation in January, three lives have been saved as a direct result of beacon activation,” Garrett said.

Search and rescue efforts are a common and almost daily practice for the agents. The Border Patrol Search Trauma and Rescue (BORSTAR) unit uses helicopters, K-9s, drones and dirt bikes for their rescue missions.

Not all migrants making the dangerous journey will be rescued: “(There was a) single female migrant who was abandoned by her guide and she wasn’t as lucky – instead of the cold she had succumb to the heat, and with no phone and no one to ask to get her help, she died in the wilderness all alone,” said James Robertson with BORSTAR, who spoke at Thursday’s event.

Along with the beacons already strategically placed in high-traffic areas, two more will be installed in the near future.

“Lives will be continued to be saved by providing civilians and illegal border crossers alike a distress signal that has not been available to them in the past,” Garrett said.

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