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How Border Patrol tracks migrant deaths

Jordan Marks pulls in donors for assessor's race

Border Patrol “had strategically placed 9-1-1 placards on accessible land with cell phone coverage to instruct migrants to call for help and assist rescue personnel with locating migrants in distress.”
Border Patrol “had strategically placed 9-1-1 placards on accessible land with cell phone coverage to instruct migrants to call for help and assist rescue personnel with locating migrants in distress.”

Border mortalities stable but rescues up

Droves of undocumented immigrants may be dying as they try to make their way north in the deserts and mountains east of San Diego. But, per a team of auditors for the nation’s Government Accountability Office, U.S. officials don’t have enough data to accurately say one way or the other. Making matters worse, the placement of solar-powered rescue beacons — a crucial part of the federal government’s so-called Missing Migrant Program, set up in 2017 — is lagging.

According to a newly released review, only four of the 165 devices installed along the border are in San Diego county’s Border Patrol sector, versus 44 in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley sector. “Headquarters program officials said they suggest that the sectors assess the placement of rescue beacons twice annually; however, this is not a documented requirement.” In the absence of beacons, much of the agency’s rescue activity depends on distressed migrants having cell phones. “Border Patrol officials also told us they had strategically placed 9-1-1 placards on accessible land with cell phone coverage to instruct migrants to call for help and assist rescue personnel with locating migrants in distress. Border Patrol told us they had placed 2518 of these placards across the southwest border as of February 2022.” Both beacons and cell-phone notices are meant “to help rescue migrants in distress and reduce migrant deaths along the southwest border,” explains the April 20 report to the heads of both the House and Senate Homeland Security committees.

To judge the program’s effectiveness, auditors searched through Border Patrol databases. They also consulted with locals, including the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office and Arizona-based Águilas del Desierto, “a nonprofit organization that conducts search and rescue missions along the southwest border.” Added the auditors, “we also observed a Border Patrol demonstration of its Border Safety Initiative Tracking System, which it uses to record information on migrant rescues and deaths.”

Building association helps Jordan Marks build his war chest.

The audit describes the harsh conditions many undocumented immigrants confront in making their illicit way north. “Along the southwest border, some migrants attempting to enter the U.S. illegally have sought to cross the border between ports of entry in remote areas, where they risk injury and death by trying to cross over mountains, deserts, and rivers. These conditions have prompted Border Patrol to warn migrants about the dangers of unlawfully crossing the border and to establish search and rescue units, among other initiatives, to help reduce the number of migrant deaths.”

Despite many troubles with data, in February 2021, a Border Patrol account “stated that known migrant deaths near the U.S.-Mexico border remained relatively stable from fiscal years 2017 through 2019, but the number of individuals rescued increased.” Lack of full disclosure has long plagued the agency, auditors concluded. “The Migrant Death Mitigation: Fiscal Year 2020 Report to Congress did not contain data limitation disclosures.” Adds the report, “In particular, Border Patrol is not recording all migrant deaths in instances where an external entity first discovers the remains.”

In league with Republicans

On April 14, the San Diego Restaurant and Beverage Political Action Committee, sponsored by the California Restaurant Association, came up with $10,000 for the San Diego County Republican Central Committee. Meanwhile, on April 26, the Building Industry Association of San Diego County PAC gave $5000 to a group calling itself San Diegans for Tax Fairness Supporting Jordan Marks for Assessor, an independent committee backing the Republican. In addition, the GOP Lincoln Club, which collected $258,050 from January 1 to April 23, spent $174,685 in the same period.

Mission Valley developer Tom Sudberry kicked in $14,900, his son Colton contributed $4900, and the Sycuan casino-owning Indian band gave $9900. Southwest Strategies, the downtown lobbying powerhouse run by Chris Wahl, who has been dodging deposition questions regarding his role in ex-GOP mayor Kevin Faulconer’s Ash Street office tower scandal, is down for $2900.

Tom Sudberry: Mission Valley developer on a mission.

Ex-Trump-era U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer gave $1400 and contractor KDTD, Inc. contributed $4900. The Lincoln Club made one contribution, $10,000 to the county Republican Party. Its remaining spending was devoted to consultants, fundraisers, and treasurer April Boling, as well as fund transfers to a tax-exempt dark money group set up last year called the Lincoln Club Business League.

Notes the Internal Revenue Service website: “Section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code provides for the exemption of business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, boards of trade and professional football leagues, which are not organized for profit and no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.” Adds the guidance: “An organization that otherwise qualifies for exemption under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(6) will not be disqualified merely because it engages in some political activity. In addition, the organization may engage in lobbying that is germane to accomplishing its exempt purpose without jeopardizing its exemption.”

— Matt Potter

(@sdmattpotter)

The Reader offers $25 for news tips published in this column. Call our voice mail at 619-235-3000, ext. 440, or sandiegoreader.com/staff/matt-potter/contact/.

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Border Patrol “had strategically placed 9-1-1 placards on accessible land with cell phone coverage to instruct migrants to call for help and assist rescue personnel with locating migrants in distress.”
Border Patrol “had strategically placed 9-1-1 placards on accessible land with cell phone coverage to instruct migrants to call for help and assist rescue personnel with locating migrants in distress.”

Border mortalities stable but rescues up

Droves of undocumented immigrants may be dying as they try to make their way north in the deserts and mountains east of San Diego. But, per a team of auditors for the nation’s Government Accountability Office, U.S. officials don’t have enough data to accurately say one way or the other. Making matters worse, the placement of solar-powered rescue beacons — a crucial part of the federal government’s so-called Missing Migrant Program, set up in 2017 — is lagging.

According to a newly released review, only four of the 165 devices installed along the border are in San Diego county’s Border Patrol sector, versus 44 in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley sector. “Headquarters program officials said they suggest that the sectors assess the placement of rescue beacons twice annually; however, this is not a documented requirement.” In the absence of beacons, much of the agency’s rescue activity depends on distressed migrants having cell phones. “Border Patrol officials also told us they had strategically placed 9-1-1 placards on accessible land with cell phone coverage to instruct migrants to call for help and assist rescue personnel with locating migrants in distress. Border Patrol told us they had placed 2518 of these placards across the southwest border as of February 2022.” Both beacons and cell-phone notices are meant “to help rescue migrants in distress and reduce migrant deaths along the southwest border,” explains the April 20 report to the heads of both the House and Senate Homeland Security committees.

To judge the program’s effectiveness, auditors searched through Border Patrol databases. They also consulted with locals, including the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office and Arizona-based Águilas del Desierto, “a nonprofit organization that conducts search and rescue missions along the southwest border.” Added the auditors, “we also observed a Border Patrol demonstration of its Border Safety Initiative Tracking System, which it uses to record information on migrant rescues and deaths.”

Building association helps Jordan Marks build his war chest.

The audit describes the harsh conditions many undocumented immigrants confront in making their illicit way north. “Along the southwest border, some migrants attempting to enter the U.S. illegally have sought to cross the border between ports of entry in remote areas, where they risk injury and death by trying to cross over mountains, deserts, and rivers. These conditions have prompted Border Patrol to warn migrants about the dangers of unlawfully crossing the border and to establish search and rescue units, among other initiatives, to help reduce the number of migrant deaths.”

Despite many troubles with data, in February 2021, a Border Patrol account “stated that known migrant deaths near the U.S.-Mexico border remained relatively stable from fiscal years 2017 through 2019, but the number of individuals rescued increased.” Lack of full disclosure has long plagued the agency, auditors concluded. “The Migrant Death Mitigation: Fiscal Year 2020 Report to Congress did not contain data limitation disclosures.” Adds the report, “In particular, Border Patrol is not recording all migrant deaths in instances where an external entity first discovers the remains.”

In league with Republicans

On April 14, the San Diego Restaurant and Beverage Political Action Committee, sponsored by the California Restaurant Association, came up with $10,000 for the San Diego County Republican Central Committee. Meanwhile, on April 26, the Building Industry Association of San Diego County PAC gave $5000 to a group calling itself San Diegans for Tax Fairness Supporting Jordan Marks for Assessor, an independent committee backing the Republican. In addition, the GOP Lincoln Club, which collected $258,050 from January 1 to April 23, spent $174,685 in the same period.

Mission Valley developer Tom Sudberry kicked in $14,900, his son Colton contributed $4900, and the Sycuan casino-owning Indian band gave $9900. Southwest Strategies, the downtown lobbying powerhouse run by Chris Wahl, who has been dodging deposition questions regarding his role in ex-GOP mayor Kevin Faulconer’s Ash Street office tower scandal, is down for $2900.

Tom Sudberry: Mission Valley developer on a mission.

Ex-Trump-era U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer gave $1400 and contractor KDTD, Inc. contributed $4900. The Lincoln Club made one contribution, $10,000 to the county Republican Party. Its remaining spending was devoted to consultants, fundraisers, and treasurer April Boling, as well as fund transfers to a tax-exempt dark money group set up last year called the Lincoln Club Business League.

Notes the Internal Revenue Service website: “Section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code provides for the exemption of business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, boards of trade and professional football leagues, which are not organized for profit and no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.” Adds the guidance: “An organization that otherwise qualifies for exemption under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(6) will not be disqualified merely because it engages in some political activity. In addition, the organization may engage in lobbying that is germane to accomplishing its exempt purpose without jeopardizing its exemption.”

— Matt Potter

(@sdmattpotter)

The Reader offers $25 for news tips published in this column. Call our voice mail at 619-235-3000, ext. 440, or sandiegoreader.com/staff/matt-potter/contact/.

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