Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mexican Illegal Immigrants Use Bicycles To Cross The Desert

Illegal immigrants and drug traffickers are using dilapidated bicycles to make a swift, night-time dash over the desert to Arizona from Mexico, border police say. Border Patrol agents in the desert state are finding dozens of the bikes dumped at hamlets such as Three Points, southwest of Tucson, which are used as staging areas by smugglers ferrying marijuana and immigrants on to cities inland. "The illegals use bicycles, either riding them on ranch roads or the foot trails themselves, as a quicker means of getting north," said Border Patrol agent Kevin Nutwell as he inspected a rusty bike discarded on one lonely trail south of Three Points. Agents say it takes up to three days to walk the 45-mile (72-km) trail from the border to Three Points, where immigrants are picked up for an onward journey to Tucson and Phoenix either by truck or packed into cars.
U.S. Border Patrol agent Kevin Nutwell inspects a rusted bicycle abandoned by illegal immigrants in the deserts south of Three Points, Arizona
Stealthy cyclists who make the trip in groups of up to 10 people led by a guide or "coyote" can make the trip in just a few hours. Reuters saw two bicycles dumped on ranch trails outside Three Points, one a 10-speed mountain bike, the other a rusted Chinese model with fat tires and wing handlebars. "The bikes have no amenities like brakes and they sometimes are lucky to have a seat on them," Nutwell said. "They spray paint the bikes flat-black and remove reflectors so that it is easier to travel at night undetected," he added. Southern Arizona is the most heavily transited area along the porous 2,000-mile (3,200-km) U.S. border with Mexico. Last year the cactus-studded corridor south of Tucson was used by more than a third of the 1.2 million illegal immigrants caught crossing the international line. Nutwell said agents also found bicycles that had been rigged with special frames to carry bundles of marijuana along the back roads that crisscross the lonely stretch of desert. "It's just one of the ingenious forms of smuggling that we come across; there's no end to it."