Our lethal policies

I don't want to go on being just a root in the shadows,
vacillating, extended, shivering with dream,
down in the damp bowels of earth,
absorbing it, thinking it, eating it every day.

-Pablo Neruda from 'Walking Around'

Border issues in the news...

The season of dying has started along Arizona's southern deserts.

Those who die are illegal immigrants, so some people say they get what they deserve.

After all, some people say, "What part of 'illegal' don't you understand?"

They've said it so loudly and for so long that they nearly drowned out some of Arizona's other voices.

In hard fact, what happens along the Arizona-Mexico border every summer is an enduring humanitarian crisis that takes the lives of real people.

Husbands.

Wives.

Sons and daughters.

Fences haven't stopped the deaths. Increases in Border Patrol agents haven't stopped it. The National Guard didn't stop it.

According to Border Patrol reckoning, 61 migrants died in the Tucson Sector from Oct. 1 through April 30. This tally is seven fewer than for the same period last year, which echoes a drop in the number of illegal immigrants caught entering the country.

Even at a reduced number, this represents a tragedy that Arizonans should not be willing to accept or ignore. What's more, those 61 souls perished before the summer heat begins taking a toll.

Migrants have long died trying to cross the border, but the numbers more than doubled from 1995 to 2005, according to the Government Accountability Office. More than three-quarters of that increase happened in Arizona. It was the result of enhanced enforcement in urban areas, which forced migrants deeper into harsh desert country.

The Rev. Robin Hoover has been keeping track of where deaths occur. He says that, eight years ago, bodies were generally found within three-quarters of a mile of a road. Now, they are found nearly 5 miles from the nearest road. The reason? Increased enforcement has driven migrants to even more remote and dangerous areas.

Hoover founded Humane Borders to try to save lives by placing water tanks along routes used by migrants. Despite the decreased numbers of border crossers this year, Hoover says the water stations disperse in excess of 1,500 gallons a week.

Years ago, The Republic editorial page began writing about summer death counts in the hope of shaming Congress into reforming immigration policies that contribute to those deaths. Washington wasn't paying much attention.

In recent years, the issue of illegal immigration reached hot-button status. Attention jumped right over those dead bodies. It leaped past the human dimension. Instead of being seen as people who are caught in a broken system, migrants are now portrayed as villains who are unworthy of sympathy.

That's where Arizona is today. Anger has the upper hand. Rage is louder than reason.

But Arizona risks its humanity if it can't refocus on what immigration policies are doing to real people.

Husbands.

Wives.

Sons and daughters.

The humanitarian crisis along our southern border needs to recognized for the tragedy it is. Policies that contribute to deaths by driving migrants deeper into the desert need to be assessed for the impact they have on people.

These things need to happen for the sake of the migrants' humanity.

And Arizona's.

Article from the Arizona Republic