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Cold weather spurs illegal immigrants to turn themselves in; four die

Associated Press Writer

TUCSON, Ariz.- Frigid temperatures over the weekend killed four illegal immigrants trying to cross the Arizona-Mexico border and forced many others to turn themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol agents.

The four men likely died from hypothermia or exposure, said Gustavo Soto, a spokesman for the Border Patrol's Tucson sector, which covers nearly all the Arizona-Mexico border.

As temperatures plunged to around freezing across the area because of a late-winter storm, numerous groups of immigrants _ numbering a half-dozen to more than a dozen _ walked out onto roads to flag down agents or other law officers, Soto said.

"They knew they were in over their heads and started making their way out to the roads," he said.

Officials were still waiting to get a count on how many people turned themselves in. In March 2000, a wintry storm forced hundreds of illegal immigrants crossing the Arizona deserts to turn themselves in.

Soto said most who gave up this time had been in the desert two or three days, and the majority didn't know daytime temperatures in the 70s can plunge to freezing or below overnight this time of year.

The Border Patrol says 26 illegal immigrants have died in the Tucson sector since Oct. 1, the start of the fiscal year, compared with 50 during the same period last year.

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