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3:58 PM Mon, Sept. 24th

Border Patrol: Smugglers abandoned 57 immigrants in Arizona

LUKEVILLE, Ariz. (AP) — An underage pregnant girl, a toddler and over a dozen youths were among a group of 57 Central American immigrants who were abandoned in the middle of the desert by their smugglers and rescued by U.S. Border Patrol agents late last week.

The Border Patrol said it rescued and then arrested members of the group near the Arizona-Mexico border on Friday after someone called Mexican authorities for help.

It says some of the immigrants were in distress in the 108-degree weather, including a young pregnant girl who was sent to a hospital.

The group included 21 adults and 36 minors, many who were traveling without a parent or relative.

"Regardless of the unscrupulous and ill regard for human life attitude by smugglers, Border Patrol Agents work tirelessly to ensure not only the safety and security of our nation but also the safety of those who they come in contact with," the agency's Tucson Sector said in a statement.

Over the last several years, the Border Patrol in Arizona has seen a steep drop in the number of immigrants, including unaccompanied minors and family units, arrested at the border. But this year is shaping up to outpace last year's figures, according to data from the agency. Agents arrested over 36,000 immigrants from October to May, with several months still remaining in the government's fiscal year. That's compared with about 38,000 arrests made in all of the last fiscal year.

Still, that's a tiny fraction of the arrests at the height of immigrant activity in Arizona in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when agents were arresting anywhere between 380,000 to 600,000 people each year.