The Border Patrol reported last week that 477 immigrants died attempting to gain illegal entry along our Mexican border. According to the Border Patrol, this is a 27% increase over the preceding year.
Although fewer undocumented immigrants are seeking entry along our southern border, they have been strategically funneled to the “easiest” places to cross. A number of traditional crossing areas have been fortified, sophisticated technology put in place to surveil potential crossers, and additional agents reassigned to the sectors. In this and other ways illegal immigrant flows are directed to specific border areas including the Lower Rio Grande Valley of south Texas.
The Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas saw the highest rise in immigrant fatalities according to the Border Patrol. Individuals die in the Valley primarily because of heat exhaustion. Frequently left to fend for themselves by their coyotes, they suffer from the heat and lack of water. The same may be said for the region around Nogales where even those with enough water may die within 48 hours of exposure to the heat. Particularly vulnerable are the elderly and children.
The Border Patrol statistics are an under-count of all those who annually die while trying to illegally cross our Mexican border. All bodies or remains of bodies are not found for a variety of reasons including wild animals spreading the bones of the dead far from known trails. Troubling also is the collection of these data are not meticulously gathered by an outside, independent agency with no self-interest in keeping the numbers low.
To its credit, the Border Patrol rescues hundreds of immigrants each year. For this it should be commended but, at the same time, more resources must be devoted to saving lives along the borderline.
Although people keep dying along our southern border, is no one to blame? For more than fifteen years, since data were first collected, more than 6,000 individuals have died while crossing the border. We can do much better than this. While our politicians negotiate new immigration laws, we can greatly reduce the number of deaths along our border if we demand more resources to save lives.
Every one of these deaths is a national disgrace that no American should tolerate.