Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Death on the Border: Summer is the Season of Death



ImmigrationProf often reminds its readers on the direct -- and deadly -- consequences of border enforcement American style.  A new report on Immigration Impact reminds us that, as summer approaches, it is the season of death for migrants along the U.S./Mexico border.

Nothing illustrates the high stakes of the immigration reform debate now taking place in the Senate quite as powerfully as the growing body count along the U.S.-Mexico border. Despite the U.S. government’s decades-long effort to stop unauthorized immigration through an “enforcement first” strategy, unauthorized migrants continue to cross the border—and scores die before completing the journey. In fact, the Tucson sector alone witnessed 2,238 migrant deaths between Fiscal Year (FY) 1990 and FY 2012. That is one of the central findings of a new report from the Binational Migration Institute at the University of Arizona, entitled A Continued Humanitarian Crisis at the BorderDownload Border_deaths_final_web  

The report examines data from the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner to shed light on trends in border fatalities over time, as well as the demographic characteristics of those who died. Fatalities in the Tucson sector have risen dramatically since 1990, coinciding with the gradual fortification of the border beginning in Texas and California. As the report notes, this had the effect of “funneling” more and more unauthorized migration through increasingly remote—and dangerous—terrain, particularly in Arizona. As a result, the number of migrant deaths in the Tucson sector rose from 8 in FY 1990 to a high of 225 in FY 2010.

Despite the decline in unauthorized immigration precipitated by the economic downturn in the United States, fatalities have remained high. In FY 2012, for instance, there were 171 deaths. According to the report, fatalities have averaged about 150 per year since 2004. The data analyzed in the report reveals some details about the deceased:

While 66% of the deceased were identified, 34% (or 761 cases) remained unidentified. As a result, the families of these individuals can never be notified as to what became of them.

46% of the deceased died of exposure to the elements (“hyperthermia or hypothermia, often coupled with dehydration”), 9% from motor vehicle accidents, and 4% from homicides. Cause of death could not be determined in 36% of the cases.

80% of the deceased were men, 18% were women. Gender could not be determined in the remaining cases.

The average age of the deceased was 31.

82.2% of the deceased were from Mexico, 7.1% from Guatemala, 2.3% from El Salvador, and 1.4% from Honduras.


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