Crossing the Sonoran Desert from Mexico into Arizona is one of the most dangerous and treacherous journeys on earth. Yet it is one of the most traveled sections of the border due to the construction of fences elsewhere. Besides enormous financial cost and the threat of being robbed, border crossers must endure blazing heat during the day, and frigid desert cold at night, as well as risks of dehydration, poisonous snakes, and other dangerous animals. Hundreds of thousands of people continue to risk this perilous journey because they are desperate to find work and economic opportunity for themselves and their families.
Border Crossing Deaths
Hundreds of men, women, and children die every year attempting to cross the U.S./Mexico border. In Pima County, Arizona, the area that records the greatest number of deaths of undocumented border crossers, 927 migrant deaths were recorded from 1995-2005 by the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office (PCMEO). A report by the Binational Migration Institute (BMI) of the University of Arizona’s Mexican American Studies and Research Center found that since the late 1990s there has been an unprecedented increase in the number of border-crossing deaths each year along this border.
The Immigration Policy Center reported in February 2007 that the bodies of between 2,000 and 3,000 men, women, and children have been found along the entire southwest border since 1995. The report states that, “Experts, including the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), now explain this crisis as a direct consequence of U.S. immigration-control policies instituted in the mid-1990s.”
The actual number of border-crossing deaths is likely much higher than reported because the estimate does not include missing migrant bodies that have never been found or recovered. Even so, recorded deaths continue to rise. Within the study’s timeframe, more recent years accounted for a higher percentage of deaths than earlier years. For example, from October 2004-October 2005, the Border Patrol reported 460 migrant deaths along the border, accounting for nearly 1/6 of the deaths in the last decade within a single 12-month period. Over 350 people died there in 2008.
To put this death count into perspective, between 1995 and 2004 the U.S./Mexico border saw 10 times the number of deaths compared to those associated with the Berlin Wall in Germany during its 28-year existence.
Heat-related illnesses from desert conditions account for over half of the total border crossing fatalities. Automobile accidents and drownings also account for a large portion of the deaths.
Reports indicate that indigenous people are the most vulnerable migrants because many do not speak Spanish and lack connections to the more widely used migrating networks.
The age demographic of border-crossing fatalities makes these numbers even more tragic. Over 80 percent of the unauthorized border-crosser deaths handled by the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office are people under the age of 40, and there is a discernable, upward trend in the number of dead youth under the age of 18.
|Posted with permission by www.humaneborders.org