The mid-1990s saw a surge in illegal migrant traffic from Mexico to the United States in part due to a struggling Mexican economy exacerbated by a devalued peso in 1994. On the American side of the border, the result was a series of Border Patrol initiatives conducted along the Southwestern border–including Operation Safeguard in Arizona–intended to tamp down on the flow of illegal aliens through well-populated towns and cities.
These busy areas were attractive to would-be border crossers since it was easy to blend into the local, largely Latino population. As hundreds of new agents descended into metropolitan areas along the border as a result of these new initiatives, however, the only alternative became to cross through remote, dangerous territory such as Arizona’s Sonoran Desert.
The Immigration & Naturalization Service hoped such terrain would discourage mostly Mexican aliens from trying to cross illegally. That hope, however, quickly turned to illusion.