Thursday, June 12, 2008
Rescue Beacons are Planned for Border
By Rene Romo
Journal Southern Bureau
DEMING Illegal immigrants and others who find themselves in distress in the harsh Chihuahuan Desert this summer will be able to summon help from rescue beacons in southern New Mexico.
The U.S. Border Patrol plans to install seven 22-foot-tall beacons scattered several miles north of the Mexican border three in southern Luna County and four in southern Hidalgo County by midsummer.
The first three beacons are expected to be operating by the end of July, with the rest a little later, said supervisory agent James Acosta of the Border Patrol's Deming station.
The towers will be topped by four high-gloss mirrors and a blinking light so they can be spotted from far off, day or night, Acosta said.
At the beacon, a red button can be pushed to alert the Border Patrol by radio signal. Pushing the red buttom also will sound an alarm to alert local ranchers or anyone else nearby that someone needs help.
The beacons, which the Border Patrol has used for years in southern Arizona, are primarily aimed at reducing deaths of illegal immigrants, many of whom make long, perilous treks across the desert in 100-degree heat or in freezing temperatures.
The Border Patrol's El Paso sector, which includes all of New Mexico and two West Texas counties, recorded 27 immigrant deaths in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. The deaths were from a variety of causes, including drowning, vehicle accidents and heat stroke.
So far this year, two immigrant deaths have been recorded in the Deming area.
Illegal immigrants rescued would be subject to deportation at some point.
Rick Moody, the Border Patrol agent in charge of the Deming station, said the beacons will be available for anyone in need of help.
"It's not just for aliens in distress," he said. "It's for hunters, backpackers, ranchers, rock hounders."