Illegal immigrants face deadlier trail to US

Increased security is funneling would-be migrants to remote border areas, where a growing number perish in their attempts to come north.

By Bruce Kennedy Jun 7, 2013 12:25PM

A group of immigrants walk through the desert towards the U.S. border, near Sasabe, Mexico, on February 14, 2008 (© Alexandre Meneghini/AP)As Congress prepares to grapple with immigration reform and border security, it might want to consider this cruel paradox. The number of migrants attempting to enter the U.S. illegally via Mexico is at its lowest levels in decades, yet the death rate among those migrants is rising as more people try and fail to cross the desolate and remote parts of the border.

The University of Arizona's Binational Migration Institute, working with the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner in Tucson, has labeled the situation along America's southern border a humanitarian crisis as migrant death rates approach record levels in some areas.

Funding for additional fencing and ramped-up security efforts along much of the nearly 2,000-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border has raised the apprehension rate of undocumented people at some traditional crossing points. The economic downturn has also likely discouraged many would-be migrants from coming to the States.

But the University of Arizona's new report says U.S. border enforcement strategies have also created a funnel effect that's pushing more migrants to try their luck at "extremely remote areas" of Arizona's border with Mexico.

The study looked at more than 2,200 migrant deaths in Arizona over the past two decades. It found the number, when compared with the number of Border Patrol apprehensions of what the study calls "undocumented border crossers," was nearly double in 2011 compared with 2009.

"Although unauthorized migration flows are near 20-year lows in the Tucson sector, the number of deaths has not decreased substantially, but rather has remained near peak highs in the region," Daniel E. Martínez, the study's first author and an assistant professor in the department of sociology at George Washington University, said in a press statement.

Some other findings:

  • 13% of the dead migrants were between ages 10 and 19, while 37% were between 20 and 29.

  • The percentage of females rose from 13% in the 1990s to 23% between 2000 and 2005. It then went to 16% between 2006 and 2012.

  • Migrants from countries other than Mexico, mostly from Central America, rose from 9% of all deaths between 2000 and 2005 to 17% in 2006-12.

A leading cause of death was exposure to the elements, although with more decomposed remains being discovered in remote areas, it's often impossible to determine exactly how the people died.

Reineke, a doctoral candidate in the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona and a co-author of the report, notes the dead can give some clues. "We are able to see signs of poverty and economic distress written on
 their bodies," he said, "and represented in the items they are carrying."

Many of the dead were also "young people in the prime of life," noted Bruce Anderson, another report co-author and a forensic anthropologist at the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner. "They are 
impoverished people coming here in the hopes of supporting their families."

More on moneyNOW

Jun 7, 2013 2:12PM
There would be less incentive for Mexicans to illegally cross the boarder if so many companies were not willing to hire them. Maybe if we cracked down on employers hiring illegals it would be more effective then building more fences because they know once they get here they can find steady work
Jun 7, 2013 1:45PM
Not my problem, not my governments problem. Their job is to keep them out. The deaths will stop when the mexican idiots realize they can't get in.
Jun 7, 2013 1:37PM
"The economic downturn has also likely discouraged many would-be migrants from coming to the States" Now we know how Bush and Obama planned on dealing with Illegal immigration. Make this country so bad and concentrate all the wealth in a few hands so there is no incentive for them to cross the boarder
Jun 7, 2013 3:09PM

enforce our current laws, illegals already here need to be sent home, NO BENEFITS FOR ANYONE WHO IS NOT AN AMERICAN CITIZEN...AND NO CITIZENSHIP EVEN IF YOU WERE BORN HERE ILLEGALLY.  might save 5-10% of the cost of Nobama care. 


better yet, how about the US treats illegal aliens EXACTLY like their country of origin treats illegal aliens. 


Jun 7, 2013 3:01PM
guess they should stay home if its so bad, it is against the law
Jun 7, 2013 2:40PM
What should we do,open the flood gates and have them follow the yellow brick road? I live in Arizona and know first hand the problems caused by the illegals.Stay in your own country or do the RIGHT THING and apply for citizenship .
Jun 7, 2013 12:53PM
We should build the Bullet Train from Mexico to LA to make sure they can get here quickly and safely so they can take care of their families.
Jun 7, 2013 2:34PM
Who in their right mind wants to slip into a country about to have it's second Civil War over falsely printed money?
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