Saturday, October 3, 2015

Border deaths on the rise again

Among the good humanitarian work done by the Tucson Samaritans is the monthly tally they keep of the total number of recovered human remains found in the desert south of Tucson, Arizona.

Alarmingly, after a slow but steady decline in recent years, the numbers are on the rise again. The numbers reveal a nine percent increase over the previous year. (121 last year, up to 133 this year.)

For the uninitiated, the recovered human remains are the skeletal remains found on in the broad swath of rugged high country desert across much of southern Arizona, just north of the Mexican border.

The remains are an excellent indication of undocumented border crossing activity. The remains, normally skeletons picked clean by the desert scavengers and harsh, dry weather, are of those unfortunate souls who lost their lives for various reasons trying to enter the U.S.

Fewer finds point to a decrease in clandestine crossings. Increased finds point to more crossings.

The increase in these grisly finds shows that U.S. Border Patrol enforcement measures seem to have little effect on the ebb and flow of migrant crossings.

The Border Patrol, of course, would argue to the contrary.

Most experts, and I agree, say the amount of migrant crossing is based on economic need and is largely unaffected by levels of enforcement. This is because of the remoteness of much of the border, which makes it virtually impossible to patrol or control.

The numbers gathered are not the random ramblings of humanitarians. These are statistics collected by and provide to the public by the Pima County Forensic Science Center. The stats represent remains found each month in Pima and Santa Cruz Counties, but also include some remains found in Pinal, Gila, and Graham counties, for various reasons. 

The increase in recovered remains comes despite a large concentration of border enforcement in southern Arizona in recent years by the Border Patrol. The concentration of man power in Arizona followed the hardening of the border in southern California and the El Paso, Texas, region, which forced migrant crossing into southern Arizona. 

With the hardening of the border in Arizona, now in-migration has moved to the more remote regions along the sprawling Texas border south of El Paso. Few accurate numbers on the found human remains are available there.

This means that the statistics provided by the Tucson Samaritans is one of the few accurate indications of border crossing activity.

The area covered by the Arizona statistics is only eight percent of the border. With 121 recovered remains in this small area, more than a thousand possible deaths occurred along the entire border. 

However, official statistics show that the 121 recovered remains are about forty percent of total. That would put the total annual deaths along the border at about 300. 

The remoteness and rugged terrain of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, which are the primary cause of the deaths (not gun violence), points to the absurdity of building the American equivalent of the Berlin Wall along the 2000-mile border.

Yet, that's what likely Republican presidential candidates like Donald Trump proposes. It staggers the mind. 

Why not, as I suggest in The Dangerous Divide, provide temporary work visas to people who want them? Those who want them know they can get the jobs they want, which most American don't won't do. 

And, it would allow the U.S. to keep track of who's in the country, where they are, and what they're doing. It would also allow the visa holders to return to Mexico without fear they could never come back.

But of course, that's too simple and easy. 

No comments: