"It's unconscionable"; Immigration rights group blasts border patrol for swiping supplies left in desert

Photo: Image by Journal Broadcast Group

"It's unconscionable"; Immigration rights group blasts border patrol for swiping supplies left in desert

CREATED Jan 18, 2013

Reporter: Maggie Vespa

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - It's a devastating hike that leaves hundreds dead in the Arizona desert each year.

Now more lives may be in danger, says one Tucson group, thanks to what they say, are the horrifying actions of one of our own customs and border patrol agents.

It's a shocking scene they never hoped to catch on cam.

In this secret footage captured roughly 20 miles north of the border, amid last week's near record coldsnap, an apparent Customs & Border Patrol agent rifles through a bag of blankets and food left behind by humanitarian aid group "No More Deaths".

Once he takes inventory, he takes it all, leaving a would-be border crosser literally out in the cold.

“It's unconscionable and I think unethical,” said volunteer Sarah Roberts.

She can't wrap her mind around it.

“It's just not something that I can imagine.  I can't imagine removing blankets and food from people who are struggling to survive."

Roberts and other members of "No More Deaths" are out in the desert daily, leaving life saving supplies and these hidden cameras, which guard against, what she says, is an ongoing problem.

“We have some incidents on camera,” she said.  “We have others where we've just observed and documented many times.

Like one caught on camera roughly one year ago, where you see an agent kicking over water bottles one by one, and walking away.

As a result, Roberts says agents were ordered to respect the work of and provisions left by humanitarian groups.

This time around, their response is a little less robust.\

In a statement released to 9OYS, customs and border protection said:

"The Border Patrol is currently reviewing the facts related to the posted video. We appreciate the efforts of those who report concerns and continue our dialogue with humanitarian groups as we work toward balancing greater border security and the health and welfare of those who attempt to enter our country unlawfully."

Roberts hopes spreading the story will spread a needed sense of compassion.

“People are dying in order to try and reunite with family, in order to try and find work, and this is one way that they're dying.  They're freezing to death.  They're dying of hypothermia, and when blankets are removed that means more people are dying."