TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) – A humanitarian group in southern Arizona says six of its eight water stations for migrants crossing the Sonoran Desert have been vandalized, including one that was shot at and had the carcass of a coyote next to it.
The group, Humane Borders, says the water stations help keep migrants who are crossing illegally from Mexico through the southern Arizona desert alive.
Joel Smith, director of operations, said he discovered that most of the water stations had been vandalized during a routine inspection on Tuesday.
He said he was most disturbed by one station about five miles east of the town of Arivaca that someone shot at and left the carcass of a coyote next to, saying the vandalism was likely by someone opposed to leaving water for migrants crossing illegally.
"Whether you agree with international immigration or not, this is a saving of human life. There's no politics involved. Either I'm gonna help people live or I'm gonna be discovering a whole lot of human bodies," Smith said.
Pima County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Courtney Rodriguez said the incident was reported on Tuesday and is under investigation.
But she said that investigating this type of vandalism is difficult because there's no way to know when it took place. "Our hands are really pretty tied when it comes to these kinds of cases," Rodriguez said.
Humane Borders has had water stations in southern Arizona since 2000. The 55-gallon stations have been vandalized in the past, but it's never been as disturbing as what the organization discovered this week, Smith said. The water container that was shot at has been there since 2004.
The number of migrant deaths in the Sonoran desert has fallen in the past few years but remains an issue. The U.S. Border Patrol reported 107 desert deaths in the Tucson Sector, which comprises most of Arizona, in fiscal year 2014. There were 307 total reported deaths by the Border Patrol the same year.