The U.S.-Mexico border is a killing field. The Border Patrol reports that, in the past seven years, 2, 994 (at last count) illegal border crossers have perished on the border. About a third of them (1,133) died crossing into Arizona.
According to the New York Times, which ran a recent article on border deaths,
"Pima County, which includes the Tucson area, is one of the busiest areas for illegal crossings along the 2,000-mile border. The medical examiner's office handled 177 deaths of border crossers in the first eight months of this year, compared with 139 over the same period last year and 157 in 2005, the year the most such deaths were registered." [At the U.S. Border, the Desert Takes a Rising Toll, By Randal C. Archibold, New York Times, September 15, 2007]
The NYT's Archibold writes that the GAO [Government Accountability Office] reported last year that
"… the annual number of reported deaths of border crossers doubled to 472 between 1995 and 2005, with the majority of those deaths in the desert near Tucson. The report suggested the agency has undercounted deaths because of inconsistent classification."
(See GAO-06-770 Illegal Immigration: Border-Crossing Deaths Have Doubled Since 1995, [PDF])
Pima County has a warehouse containing 164 cadavers which have never been identified. One skeleton found in that county was in such bad shape they couldn't tell if it were male or female.
Illegal border crossers die because of natural causes (dehydration and exposure to the elements) and because of violence (from criminals, including smugglers).
Some of the illegal aliens die from the heat. In the U.S. Army—I just got back from Iraq—we learned the dangers of becoming a "heat casualty." There are three stages, each successively worse: heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which is life-threatening. By the time you get to the heat stroke stage, you can't even sweat anymore. Soldiers are trained to watch out for such conditions and to avoid them. But still, it happens.
When I was in Basic Training in humid Fort Benning, Georgia, a trainee marching in front of me collapsed from the heat. When I was in Iraq, our base was well-stocked with bottled water, with gallons of it stacked up and free for the taking.
But many Mexican illegal crossers are grossly unprepared to cross a desert area. Most who cross the border aren't from desert areas anyway. They come from the more fertile areas of central Mexico. So they have no idea what to expect.
Then there are the "coyotes"—human smugglers, some of whom charge up to $4,000 to smuggle aliens across the border. They regularly rob, abuse or abandon their charges. In one case, an 8-year old Mexican girl was crossing the border and died after being abandoned by her smuggler. (Where were her parents?) [Patrolling the Border for Migrants From Mexico, With a Humanitarian Goal, By Simon Romero, New York Times, July 20, 2005]
It's an ongoing human tragedy. But whose fault is it? And what's the solution?
Of course, this argument implies that Mexicans simply have to cross the border. Incredibly, President Bush seems to believe the same thing.
On October 19th, at a conference of Mexican governors, Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa announced that, as of that date, 345 Mexicans had died trying to cross the border in 2007. So did she tell Mexicans not to risk their lives crossing the desert?
Of course not. The Mexican foreign minister's solution is to increase all sorts of meddling activities by Mexican consulates in the U.S. [Mexicanos muertos en frontera con EU suman 345: SRE , El Universal, October 19th, 2007]
At the risk of sounding flippant or morbid, allow me to ask another question:
Don't Mexicans die every day here in Mexico? Yes, they do. Each death is a tragedy, but each death is not accorded the same attention by the Mexican media and politicians.
Each winter there are Mexicans who die in cold-related deaths. Sometimes they are asphyxiated by gas heaters, and sometimes children are accidently smothered under blankets.
That's about 1,460 deaths per year. Yet you almost never hear about that. It's just not considered as tragic as the Mexicans who die attempting to sneak into the U.S.
Every day such tragedies occur. So why so much emphasis on deaths of Mexicans on the border?
It's because the Mexican government (and its American collaborators) are utilizing these tragic yet completely avoidable deaths to promote an agenda. They are blaming the U.S. government, in order to obtain an amnesty and complete open borders.
In a recent case, a boatload of 24 Central Americans was headed to the U.S., bypassing Mexico in the Pacific Ocean.
That's because, among Central Americans, Mexico has a harsher reputation for dealing with illegals than does the U.S.
Mexico's principal method of catching illegal aliens is in highway checkpoints. So some Central American illegals are bypassing those checkpoints by taking to the open sea. This time it was fatal for 13 of them (9 of them women) when the boat they were in sank. [Sepultarán temporalmente en Oaxaca cuerpos de 13 naufragos, El Universal, October 22nd, 2007] Survivors, by the way, are being returned to Central America—not Mexico.
Are their deaths less tragic than those of Mexicans who die in the desert?
Like the Mexican government, American activist groups in the Southwest also blame the U.S. government for border deaths. Humane Borders has set up 80 water stations in the desert for illegal aliens. The organization's funding comes from liberal churches, corporate sponsors (including Univision) and the Pima County Board of Supervisors (a.k.a. Pima County taxpayers).
Founder Robin Hoover describes Humane Borders as "just a group of religious folks working toward saving lives and getting the INS to change its policies."
What policies? Well, Humane Borders' legislative goals include the legalization of illegal aliens currently in the U.S., a guest worker program, more visas for Mexicans and the demilitarization of the border.
(Demilitarization of the border? When was the U.S. side of the border ever militarized? Of course, with typical hypocrisy, Mexico does have troops on its side of the border. In fact, the Mexican Army performs police functions throughout the country.)
Humane Borders blames the U.S. government for deaths on the border. I would partially blame the U.S. government too—but not for the same reasons. Failure to control the border, and to punish employers for hiring illegal aliens, encourages Mexicans to cross illegally—and thus to die in the desert.
The hypocritical Mexican government shares a huge portion of the blame, for encouraging illegal emigration. The Mexican government wants open borders, but then bellyaches about the smuggling of guns and drugs.
And the illegal aliens themselves, it must be said, are also to blame. They know what they're doing is against U.S. law, but they do it anyway.
In fact, Mexicans who illegally enter the U.S. are not only breaking American law, they are also breaking Mexican law. The Mexican government should tell its people to stop breaking our laws and to quit defending and glorifying those who do.
But that's not about to happen.
The deaths on the border of Mexicans, and what seems to be an increasing number of other nationalities, is indeed a tragedy. But it is a completely avoidable tragedy. It doesn't have to happen. These people don't have to die.
Ironically, most of the activists who oppose the border wall bemoan the loss of life on the border.
But building that wall would save Mexican lives.
The Mexican government opposes the wall. Though Mexican leaders shed crocodile tears over Mexicans who die in the desert, for them the illegal aliens are just pawns in a strategy to expand their political power.
Any activist who really wants to save Mexican lives on the border should join the Minutemen—not Humane Borders.
And if the U.S. government wanted to save lives, both Mexican and American, it would get serious about building that border wall.
"But just look at this spectacle on the border. It's a scandal. It's been going on, night after night, for years. And, during all that time, the elite custodians of 'the American conscience' have paid no attention, except fleetingly, when illegal immigrants actually land by accident on New York's beaches.
"Border enforcement is another question in the Great American Immigration Debate that must be refocused. The question should not be: 'How can we be cruel enough to enforce the law on the border?' The question should really be: 'How can we be cruel enough not to enforce it?'
That was (an Ed Rubenstein estimate) some 6.25 million illegal aliens ago.
American citizen Allan Wall ( email him) resides in Mexico, with a legal permit issued him by the Mexican government. Allan recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq with the Texas Army National Guard. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his FRONTPAGEMAG.COM articles are archived here his "Dispatches from Iraq" are archived here his website is here.