Border Patrol Adds Emergency Beacon Towers In Desert

April 30, 2014

Jude Joffe-Block
Tucson Sector Border Patrol Chief Manuel Padilla addresses the media in front of one of the agency's rescue beacons.

The U.S. Border Patrol will be adding more rescue beacon towers to the Arizona desert. Spokesman Peter Bidegain says the agency wants to cut back on migrant deaths.

"We’re really keeping our fingers crossed for a safe summer for the people that are going to enter illegally. We really want to increase our rescue numbers over the next year and see fewer people die out there in the desert," Bidegain said.

Last year the Border Patrol rescued more than 800 migrants in the desert and recorded 194 migrant deaths.

The agency said Wednesday it was adding 10 more solar-powered beacons to the desert in the coming weeks. The agency is also converting all of its existing 22 beacons to a uniform design. The beacons will all have a blue light at the top that can be spotted up to ten miles away, according to Bidegain.

When migrants push a red button on the tower, a radio alert goes out to Border Patrol agents. It can take agents a few minutes to an hour to respond.

Last year, people in distress activated the beacon 97 times and Border Patrol rescued a total of 165 individuals from the beacons. 

Updated May 1 at 8:51 a.m.