The 911 emergency call came in to the US Border Patrol’s Tucson station around midnight.Joselino Gomez Esteban’s voice crackled through an older cell phone from somewhere in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, the final stretch of a 2,000-mile (3,218 km) migration from Guatemala.Gomez said he was lost. He needed help. His nephew had collapsed, wouldn’t respond.Each year hundreds of migrants die trying to cross into the United States from Mexico. Thousands more need rescuing. The Border Patrol tallied 294 deaths in fiscal year 2017, the last year for which data is available. But experts believe the actual figure is far higher. Some who die are never found.A quarter of those known deaths – 72 people – came in the Tucson border sector, where summer temperatures routinely hit triple digits. Between October of 2017 and October of 2018, the Tucson Border Patrol launched 923 rescue operations, a 22 percent rise from a year before, according to an agency official.Finding Gomez, 43, and his nephew, Misael Paiz, 25, would prove difficult. The cell phone Gomez used did not provide his GPS coordinates. Using the cell phone towers that transmitted the 911 emergency call did little to help; the signal had bounced off towers up to 100 miles (161 km) away. Headquartered in a modern two-story brown brick building, the Tucson Border Patrol sector is responsible for 262 miles (422 km) of sweeping desert, canyons and cactus-studded hills. Gomez and Paiz could have been anywhere in this territory. Agents were not even certain they were on the US side of the border.The sector has a staff of 4,200 at its disposal, backed by helicopters and unarmed drones, with technology ranging from motion and image sensors to cameras able to spot migrants from seven miles (11 km) away. It is one of the busiest sectors on the border for apprehensions and rescues of illegal migrants as well as seizures of marijuana. More than twice a day, on average, agents launch rescue missions. At times, rescues turn to recovery efforts. Deaths come mostly from heat stroke in summer, hypothermia in winter. The dead are taken to the Pima County medical examiner’s office.“We see this day in and day out,” said Greg Hess, the county’s chief medical examiner. Sometimes only bones are recovered; sometimes identifications are impossible. When they can, the office arranges for the return of remains to family members back home.‘Soon, It Will Be My Turn’Two weeks earlier, Gomez and Paiz had set off from Aguacate, a struggling Guatemalan farming town of 1,500 people near the Mexican border. The following account is based on more than two dozen interviews with family members, government officials, border patrol agents and human rights workers.Paiz, a restaurant cook who had worked in Mexico, hoped to find work in the United States and send money back home. His uncle, Gomez, planned to join his wife and three children in South Carolina. He had been deported two years earlier and tried and failed three times since to make it back. This would be his fourth attempt. “The family is disintegrating because here we don’t have work,” said Paiz’s father, Miguel Domingo Paiz, 59.Domingo knows that leaving for a better future is a life-or-death gamble. His eldest son Ovidio was shot dead in Mexico last year after moving there to find a job.In recent years, the number of Guatemalans caught crossing illegally into the United States has risen steadily from about 57,000 in 2015 to nearly 117,000 in 2018, and is second only to apprehensions of Mexicans. The figures, experts say, reflect a greater willingness among Guatemalans to brave the perils of migration to escape rising violence, poverty and political turmoil.Paiz told his twin brother, Gaspar, that he made an initial payment of $500 to a smuggler – known as a “coyote” – who promised to get him across the border. He would owe another $5,500 if he made it. After making their way to the Mexican town of Sasabe on the border with Arizona, Paiz and Gomez waited 12 days for their turn to cross with a guide, according to family members. In one of their last phone conversations, Paiz told his father: “Soon it will be my turn.”Published in Daily Times, November 16th 2018.