Border Patrol Neglects Asylum Seekers in Winter Storm, Threatens Aid Workers with Arrest

The road along the border wall near Sasabe

SASABE, Arizona – Last night, humanitarian aid workers scrambled to triage and support 300 asylum seekers stranded along the border wall east of Sasabe, Arizona. A winter storm blew in, dumping rain upon the hundreds of men, women, children, and babies left without adequate shelter in the remote location. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, volunteers notified Border Patrol that they would be driving asylum seekers to the Sasabe substation to be processed, to get them out of the life-threatening cold.

Volunteers were told that this was illegal. Meanwhile, Border Patrol agents refused to send personnel to the area, citing road conditions and limited space in vehicles as the reason for their lack of response. They advised volunteers to call 911 if there was a medical emergency.

The message from Border Patrol was loud and clear: you’re on your own.

Despite the constraints of providing humanitarian aid in a place where cell phone service is limited and the nearest ambulance is two hours away, humanitarian aid volunteers did place multiple calls to 911. Through the rainy day and the frigid night, no emergency services arrived.   “Without us volunteers everybody would have died. Everybody would have died,” one volunteer responding to the situation said. “With no tarps, no rain gear, no food, and no water, 300 adults, elders, and children could have died from exposure. We were a group of 8-15 volunteers triaging 300 people, trying to prevent hundreds of deaths. We cannot keep this up. We are not meant for this. We need bigger resources and responses.”  

There are still hundreds of people stranded along the wall, waiting to be picked up by Border Patrol.