Friday, October 12, 2007

Border deaths break record

The Sonoran Desert of the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona has been particularly deadly for immigrants. According to Coalicion de Derechos Humanos at least 237 men and women have died there in the past twelve months surpassing last year’s record of 205 deaths.

This is from Marc Cooper at the Huffington Post:
The number of bodies recovered on the Arizona-Mexico border over the past year has hit a new high, according to reports released Thursday by human rights activists and county coroners.

Over the past fiscal year ending October 1, at least 237 people died trying to cross into Arizona. While most were from Mexico and Central America, almost 40% of the victims remain unidentified.

This year's toll is up from the 205 statewide fatalities registered during the previous 12 month period. The data was released by the Tucson-based Coalicion de Derechos Humanos and is based on the death counts compiled by coroners in the counties bordering Mexico.

The majority of this year's deaths, 206, were recorded in Pima County -- directly south of Tucson in the south-central part of the state. The Bush administration, in escalating its border clamp down, has claimed that overall deaths along the border have dipped.

But the figures released today suggest that the human traffic across the southern border has not been stemmed so much as it has been re-directed and re-channeled through some of the more perilous and uninhabited stretches of the Sonoran desert. This year's death toll for Pima County is the highest on record.

"It has been estimated that the lives of more than 5,000 men, women and children have been lost on the U.S.- Mexico border since the mid-1990s," says a statement released today by the Coalicion which keeps a running count of the fatalities. The recovered body count for Arizona has surpassed 200 since the fiscal year 2002-2003, yet the loss of life has been shockingly described by Border Patrol officials as 'collateral damage,'" said the statement.

It was the Clinton administration which began a concerted effort to shut down traditional crossing routes early in its tenure. In the mid 1990's approximately fifty people a year died along the entire U.S.-Mexican border, Over the last decade, that figure has climbed ten-fold. The 237 deaths this past year in Arizona represent about a half of the total number who have died along the entire California to Texas run of the border.
This is happening at a time when the Bush administration is trying to find ways for U.S. farmers to bring in more foreign workers to harvest crops that may end up rotting in the fields as a result of the labor shortage triggered by the government’s crackdown on immigrants. As too few Americans seem to appreciate, the very immigrants crossing the southern border they are so fearful about are the very people making American lifestyles possible.

Attempts at closing the border forces immigrants from the south to attempt ever more dangerous entry into the United States over unfriendly terrain and it forces those who are here to never leave out of fear they will never be able to return. Migration is a natural phenomenon that is part of the human experience. A common sense immigration policy requires regulation but needs to make it easy enough for people to come here to work and return home without fear not being able to return. When policy makers make it hard to comply with the law we end up with the unsatisfactory situation we have today.

We should never forget we are a nation of immigrants.

1 comment:

Comrade Kevin said...

Nor should we forget how easy it is to wish to look for simple solutions for which there are no easy answer. Immigration is one of these.