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November 30, 2000 

INS and Mexico Intensify Joint Training Initiative
Joint Search and Rescue Training Held in Tucson

NOGALES, Ariz. — U.S. Border Patrol Chief Gustavo De La Viña and Dr. Romeo Flores-Caballero, a high-level official representing Mexico’s National Institute for Migration (INM), today announced a new measure to improve safety for migrants and officers. As part of a binational commitment to promote migrant safety, the U.S. Border Patrol and officers from Mexico are conducting joint search and rescue training in Arizona this week.

More than 58 officers from the two nations, along with representatives from local law enforcement agencies, are taking part in the week-long exercise, which focuses on skills ranging from rappelling to water survival. The binational training will help ensure that both U.S. and Mexican agents on the border have appropriate safety training, and that they share valuable rescue techniques.

Tucson Border Search Trauma and Rescue team members (BORSTAR) are training 20 Mexican officers, as well as officers from the Tohono O’odham Police Department, the Pima County Sheriff’s Office, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office and the Rio Rico Fire Department. The training is designed to increase agents’ awareness of the hazards of the border, foster relationships with local and federal officials who work on both sides of the border, and teach agents survival and search and rescue techniques tailored to the Arizona border environment. The training includes extensive physical and medical training and will culminate today in a rescue exercise, where officers will demonstrate techniques learned during the past week.

"This training demonstrates our continued commitment to safety along our shared border. Saving lives is fundamental to all law enforcement organizations and the Border Patrol is pleased to work with Mexico and the Tohono O’odham nation to improve search and rescue techniques," said De La Viña. Last year Border Patrol agents rescued more than 2,400 migrants from life-threatening situations.

"Safety is the highest priority. This rigorous training will help ensure the safety on both sides of the border of migrants, residents and agents," said Dr. Flores-Caballero.

Tucson Sector’s BORSTAR, a unit specially trained in search and rescue techniques unique to the terrain and weather conditions of the sector, provides the medical assistance necessary to stabilize patients and transport them to areas more accessible to advanced emergency medical services.

This latest initiative is a continuation of border safety efforts in Tucson Sector. In July, Chief De La Viña launched Operation Sky Watch, an aerial surveillance program announced as part of the Border Safety Initiative. For Operation Sky Watch, seven additional airplanes were deployed to patrol the Arizona border, identify migrants in distress, and deter illegal crossings. In FY 2000, more than 1,300 migrants were rescued with the assistance of these aircraft and Border Patrol pilots.

The Border Safety Initiative, developed two and a half years ago in close cooperation with Mexican officials, is designed to educate migrants about the risks and dangers of crossing the border illegally and to assist those who do not heed the warnings. The initiative draws on longstanding public safety measures practiced locally by the Border Patrol along the Southwest border. It has three elements: prevention, search and rescue and identification. The initiative builds on actions the Border Patrol has already taken to increase the safety of the border region. As part of the Border Safety Initiative, the Border Patrol has:

  • Incorporated the Border Safety Initiative into the operational plan of each station on the Southwest border,
  • Developed and implemented a comprehensive methodology for tracking migrant deaths and rescues,
  • Mapped dangerous crossing points and developed reports outlining where deaths and injuries occur,
  • Deployed technology and personnel to cover especially hazardous areas,
  • Worked with Mexican officials to post warning signs at major transportation areas and especially dangerous crossing points,
  • Expanded the coordination of public information efforts with U.S. and Mexican media outlets to warn would-be crossers about dangerous crossing points.
  • Equipped all vehicles with water containers as well as rescue equipment including hot and cold weather rescue packs,
  • Established toll-free numbers for anyone to call the INS when they see a migrant in danger and in need of rescue, and
  • Worked with Mexican Consuls, local medical examiners and INS officials to establish border-wide procedures to identify the deceased.

— INS —