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Aug 19, 2013 8:49 PM by Nathan O'Neal

Pima County approves funding for border crosser water stations

TUCSON - More than $22,000 was approved by the Pima County Board of Supervisors to help fund the non-profit humanitarian group "Humane Borders", which provides water stations throughout the desert to help prevent border crosser deaths.

More than 2,200 deaths have been recorded in the last 12 years, making Pima County part of one of the deadliest corridors for migrants -- many of whom try to survive the desert after crossing the border illegally.

With a 3-1 vote, the Board of Supervisors continue to build on something it has done since 2001 in providing funding for the water stations.

"It's important that we try to protect lives and reduce the number of deaths in the desert," said Supervisor Richard Elias, who voted in favor of the funding.

The money will primarily go to help the group operate, travel to site locations and even purchase the water that fills the tanks up.

"I really hope that the whole situation would end, but that would be realistic," Elias said, adding: "What we need to do is try to slow down the number of people that die in the desert. We hope to eliminate those deaths completely but that seems to be elusory."

Supervisor Ally Miller was the lone opposing vote. She believes there's more at stake when providing these humanitarian stations.

"We're encouraging them to put themselves in that situation by saying ‘there's water in the desert, we're going to provide you with maps' ... if they didn't think that that was there, I think that less people would come across the border," Miller said.

What's more disturbing, Miller said, is not knowing who exactly is using those water stations.

"I believe that we have so many criminal gangs coming across that we're aiding, and abetting them and people to come into our country illegally," Miller said, adding that the only real solution is for the federal government to tackle the immigration system as a whole.

The Pima County Medical Examiner said the number of border crosser deaths has increased dramatically. Since 200, the county has processed at least 150 death each year.

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