Migrant deaths are on the rise, according to a study released on Wednesday. Although the number of people making illegal border crossings from Mexico into the United States has dropped, a larger percentage of those who do cross will die in the course of the journey.
US Border Patrol reported a grim discovery Friday near the town of Sells, Arizona — five sets of skeletal remains partly buried by rocks in the stony desert. The Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office noted that most migrants are found dead of heat exhaustion and thus wouldn’t be covered. However, the gruesome and still unexplained discovery throws an additional spotlight on the remote smuggling corridor where the bodies were found.
The new study of migrant deaths going back to 1990 was conducted by the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office and the University of Arizona’s Binational Migration Institute. According to their review of over 2,200 migrant deaths in Arizona over the last 23 years, the risks of dying on the journey have escalated.
A migrant was twice as likely die in 2012 as in 2009. In the Tucson sector, a migrant was five times as likely to die in 2012 as in 2004.
As border security and patrols have been stepped up in the years since the 911 terror strike in 2001, the migrants are forced to make illegal crossings in more and more remote areas. As a result, when they die, it takes longer to find their bodies. Therefore, the bodies are often more heavily decomposed when they are discovered, making it tougher for medical examiners to determine the true cause of death.
About 20 percent of migrant deaths couldn’t be explained between 2000 and 2005. From 2006 onward, about 46 percent are going unexplained.
Study co-author Raquel Rubio-Goldsmith said bluntly that the United States is facing an unacknowledged mass death disaster in the migrant deaths.
[memorial crosses photo by Geoffrey Whiting via Shutterstock]