Border Patrol agents have been suspected of tainting water jugs hidden for migrants trying to cross over from Mexico into the United States, human rights groups claimed Wednesday.
The organizations, in a new report, alleged agents contaminated water and supplies in a bid to scare people from crossing the border illegally.
Researches determined almost 3,586 gallons of water were compromised between March 2012 and December 2015, according to the report by advocacies No More Deaths and La Coalicion de Derecho Humanos, which was provided to the Guardian.
They examined about 800 square miles of Sonoran desert in Arizona, according to the report.
Water containers were found to be damaged 415 times over the three-year, nine-month period, the groups said.
The report partially blamed hunters, wildlife and other factors in the damage.
But the bulk of the actions, they said, came from border patrol agents.
“The practice of destruction of and interference with aid is not the deviant behavior of a few rogue border patrol agents, it is a systemic feature of enforcement practices in the borderlands,” the report argues.
A Customs and Border Protection spokesman declined to comment when reached by the Guardian, saying he first needed to see the report, which was released Wednesday.
Releasing the report comes as the Trump White House has pushed for more security at the U.S. border with Mexico.
President Obama was in office during the time the human rights groups studied the patch of border area.
The human rights groups told the Guardian that migrants need to drink up to 12 litres of water per day as they cross the desert.
Temperatures in the Sonoran desert regularly hit 104 degrees in the summer, according to the National Parks Service.
About 31,558 gallons of water were placed along routes frequented by migrants over the three-year period, No More Deaths said. More than 80% of the water was consumed over that time.
The groups quoted an immigrant identified only as Miguel, who recalled finding the compromised containers, according to the Guardian.
“They break the bottles so you can’t even use them to fill up in the tanks,” he said in the report. “I needed water, some of the other people in the group needed water, but we found them destroyed. [I felt] helplessness, rage. They [the US border patrol] must hate us.”