US-Mexico Border Migrant Deaths Rose In 2017 Even As Crossings Fell
An increasing number of migrants have died at the border between the U.S. and Mexico during the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, even as arrests have dropped.
The United Nations agency International Organization for Migration (IOM) recorded 412 migrant deaths in 2017, a three percent increase from the 398 recorded the previous year, according to figures compiled by the IOMs Missing Migrants Project.
The U.S. Border Patrol, however, reported a sharp decrease in detentions at the southwest border. According to IOM figures, authorities caught 341,084 migrants over the 2017 calendar year, compared with 611,689 apprehensions in 2016. These figures show an even higher drop than that declared by the U.S. Custom and Border Protection agency last month, which used the fiscal year 2017 as its time frame.
The increase in deaths is especially concerning, as the available data indicate that far fewer migrants entered the US via its border with Mexico in the last year, Frank Laczko, Director of IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre said in a statement.
According to the UN agency, prolonged exposure to the extreme environments in the border region, where temperatures often top 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degree Celsius), combined with the difficulty of bringing assistance those in need in remote areas have repeatedly been cited as leading causes of death.
Texas, where 191 migrant deaths were recorded in the last year, is a particular area of concern and the 2017 total represents a 26 percent increase over the 151 fatalities recorded in the state in 2016, added IOM in the press release.
At the same time, though data on migrant fatalities on the US-Mexico border are more accessible than in many other regions of the world, they remain incomplete and the number of deaths reported by the US Border Patrol includes only those which agents deal with directly.
This means that federally reported figures could seriously underestimate the real number of deaths, said Julia Black, data collection coordinator for IOMs Missing Migrants Project.
IOM also reported that the vast majority of migrant border deaths recorded by the Project occur on the US side of the border though one reason for this may be that coroners, medical examiners, and sheriffs in US border counties are more likely to regularly report data on migrant deaths to the agency’s staff.
Reports of deaths south of the border often surface locally from radio stations and small newspapers, or from social media, the UN agency added, noting that the information on fatalities could come weeks, even months after they occur.
Since the start of the Missing Migrants Project, IOM has recorded 1,468 deaths on the US-Mexico border, including 14 deaths in January 2018.
Trump pledged during his election campaign that he would crack down on illegal immigration by building a big and beautiful wall across the southern border. He has also signed executive orders that call for the hiring of 5,000 more Border Patrol agents and 10,000 more immigration officers.