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For Many Migrants, the Last Leg of the Journey North Is Through a Minefield

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A signs warns of danger on the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range, in Arizona, one of several live aerial bombing ranges that undocumented migrants often walk through.

Crossing the United States–Mexico border is notoriously dangerous. The climate, the landscape, Border Patrol, and vigilantes conspire to make any wrong step a migrant’s last. But there is an especially dangerous stretch between Yuma and Maricopa in southern Arizona. Here, where the land is barren but for the creosote and sage that dot the sandy plains and dunes, migrants are confronted with unexploded ordnance from as far back as World War II, as well as live fire from jet fighters and bombers.

This is the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range (BMGR), a two-million-acre plot in the Yuma Desert. Used by both the U.S. Air Force and Marines, the range stands between the southern border and Interstate 8, the immediate destination for many migrants heading north. This cruel juxtaposition has led to the recorded deaths of dozens, though the true toll remains unknown, as the bodies are never searched for—only unintentionally found.

The BMGR was established in 1941 by the U.S. Department of War, predecessor to today’s departments of the Army and the Air Force. The range was built to train pilots from nearby Luke Air Force Base and Marine Corps Air Station Yuma on air-to-air and air-to-ground gunnery and bombing, a mission that it continues today. Two-thirds of the range is managed by the Air Force and the remainder by the Marines. The Air Force’s side is typically active five days a week and one weekend a month; the Marine’s is operational 24/7.

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Thanks !

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