Tightened Arizona Border Security Pushes Migrants to Dangerous Routes, More Deaths

Thursday, May 23, 2013
Stroing remains immigrants at Pima County morgue, Tucson, Arizona (photo: Ross D. Franklin, AP)

U.S. efforts to tighten security along the border with Mexico have led to immigrants taking more dangerous routes into the country, resulting in higher numbers of fatalities.


The rising death toll has occurred despite a reduction in the overall number of people trying to sneak into the U.S.


A total of 463 deaths were recorded during the last fiscal year that ended September 30—the highest number on record except for 2005, when there were more than three times as many apprehensions.


The largest number of the deaths in FY2012 occurred in Arizona near Tucson, which is also the busiest stretch of the Mexican border for illegal crossings.


Another dangerous stretch is in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. There, 77 bodies of immigrants were recovered between October 1 and April 30, an average of almost three a week.


The heightened security has forced immigrants to travel far from population centers, usually through remote and dangerous border areas, such as vast stretches of desert.


The most common cause of immigrant deaths is exposure to extreme desert heat or cold, and the usual age range of those who die is between 20 and 35. Last year, more than half of the dead were identified as having come not from Mexico, but from Central America.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

Arizona Desert Swallows Migrants on Riskier Paths (by Fernando Santos and Rebekah Zemansky, New York Times)

The Alarming Rise of Migrant Deaths on U.S. Soil—And What to Do About It (by Adam Isacson and Maureen Meyer, Washington Office on Latin America)

Arizona OpenGIS Initiative for Deceased Migrants (Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner and Humane Borders, Inc.)

More than One Immigrant a Day Found Dead Near Border with Mexico (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

As U.S. Tightens Border with Mexico, Immigrants Risk the Ocean (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


Mark 5 years ago
Hmm ... no one is 'forced' to go thru more remote, desolate terrain, unless they are virtual slaves/prisoners. Those crossing the border legally & legitimately may do so at any port-of-entry. It is only those 'unauthorized' who -choose- to evade the rule-of-law that -choose- more remote locations to escape detection. These aren't solely the 'tired & poor' escaping near-poverty, but include drug- , people-, and arms- smugglers. There is an active trade in sex-slaves & other domestic workers, led by unscrupulous 'contractors' in these remote locations. That said, I certainly support any variety of immigration law reforms - some of which are now making their way thru Congress. But please, let's be accurate when we talk about the perils of unauthorized entry - it is a matter of choice, except in those instances in which the poor are in essence slaves - and then, a -choice- is made by the slave-holders to cross in remote places.

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