Monday, October 25, 2010

U.S. Border Security Causes Record Migrant Deaths in Arizona

Arizona Fiscal Year Deaths: 253

For Immediate Release
October 21, 2010
Derechos Humanos: 520.770.1373

After a Decade of Denouncing Border Militarization,
Arizona Communities See Record Deaths Continue on the Arizona-Sonora Border

While Migrants Continue to Die, DHS Secretary Napolitano Brags About Militarization and Border Policies

Arizona-The final number of bodies recovered on the Arizona-Sonora border for the fiscal year that began on October 1, 2009 and ended September 30, 2010 is 253, the second highest on record for the Arizona -Sonora border, reports Coalición de Derechos Humanos. The data, which are compiled from medical examiner reports from Pima, Yuma, and Cochise counties, are an attempt to give a more accurate reflection of the human cost of expensive and lethal U.S. border and immigration policies.

Derechos Humanos has denounced the militarization of our border, even before we began to see the deadly effects. In 1994, there were 14 known migrant deaths in Arizona, and our communities were outraged, protesting the loss of human life. Only sixteen years later, we are recovering eighteen times that number in one year. That is a 1,707% increase. We cannot permit this to continue.

death graphic percentages 10-21-10

The final count includes 170 males, 32 females, 4 minors, and approximately 156, or 61.7% of unknown identity. Countries represented in the final count include México, Guatemala, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic.

This figure is higher than last year's total of 206 remains recovered, and while the true total number of deaths on the border is impossible to calculate, Derechos Humanos has documented at least 2,104 deaths on the Arizona- Sonora border since 2000. The number of remains recovered in neighboring states and south of the border is not currently available.

deaths graphic ten years 10-21-10

In reviewing the data from this year, an alarming piece that jumps out immediately is the staggering increase in the number of remains of unknown gender. Three years ago, that number was 5, 19 the following year, 31 last year, and this year we are at 51, an incredible 20% of the total recovered. It is unconscionable that our government not only continues with these policies, but openly brags about increasing militarization efforts on the border.

Unknown gender indicates that not enough of the remains were recovered to determine gender, and without DNA, it is impossible to know even this basic information about the individual, making identification and return to their families even more difficult. The dramatic increase in these unknown gender cases are a troubling indicator of what is to come, as people are pushed out into more and more isolated areas, making rescue and detection less likely, and the likelihood of death more certain.

There is information to suggest that the migration flow patterns are shifting due to the Funnel Effect, which has been documented by the Binational Migration Institute.* The high number of skeletal remains recovered this year, 59 (23.3% of total) support this likely shift in migration flow, and it is possible that the long periods of time before being recovered indicates that people are crossing in more isolated and desolate areas, with less chance of rescue or discovery. It is unknown how many remains are currently near the border but have not yet been discovered, and it is probable that some of these remains will never be recovered.

For more than a decade, border communities have cried out for justice, demanding change to the policies that funnel hundreds of men, women and children to their deaths every year. Not only have the human cost of these policies been acknowledged, but efforts have been increased every year. The Department of Homeland Security has been given a blank check every year-granted power, equipment, and resources that could further real security in our communities, such as education, health care and economic development-instead, they have become instruments of death.

A war has been waged not only on immigrants, but on the families that live in border communities-the Indigenous who find their lands red with the blood of native brethren, the desert animals and environment who see their homes destroyed by border infrastructure, and people of conscience who see death becoming horrifyingly normalized every day by our leaders and politicians. We stand united in grief and resolution over these unnecessary deaths, as we witness the fatal policies of division and xenophobia that continue to invade our sacred borderlands.


The complete list of recovered bodies is available on the Coalición de Derechos Humanos website: This information is available to anyone who requests it from us and is used by our organization to further raise awareness of the human rights crisis we are facing on our borders.

* The complete BMI study, The "Funnel Effect" & Recovered Bodies of Unauthorized Migrants Processed by the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner, 1990-2005, is available on the Derechos Humanos website.


Editors note: embedded links were added.

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