Arrests down, but deaths of illegal immigrants in desert jump
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...
Deaths of illegal immigrants have risen along the U.S.-Mexico border in the past six months despite a nearly 25 percent drop in Border Patrol arrests that suggests far fewer people are entering the country unlawfully.
The number of migrant deaths along the roughly 2,000-mile border increased by nearly 7 percent between Oct. 1 and March 31, the first six months of the 2009 federal fiscal year. The biggest increase occurred in the patrol's Tucson Sector, the nation's busiest corridor for illegal immigrants coming through Mexico.
In all, the remains of 128 people were found, compared to 120 in the same six-month period the year before, according to just-released Border Patrol statistics.
Yet, apprehensions of people crossing illegally from Mexico into Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California dropped to less than 265,000 — a decrease of more than 24 percent from the comparable period a year ago and 37 percent from the first six months of the federal fiscal year that began on Oct. 1, 2006. The number of arrests is generally considered an indication of how many people are illegally crossing the border into the U.S. The more apprehensions, the more people are thought to be coming.
Migrant-rights groups say there's a direct correlation between the number of deaths and increased enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border.
"What we've seen is that the death rate has gone up even though the number of people crossing has gone down, the direct result of more agents, more fencing and more equipment," said the Rev. Robin Hoover, founder of the Tucson-based group Humane Borders, which provides water stations for migrants crossing the Southern Arizona desert. "The migrants are walking in more treacherous terrain for longer periods of time, and you should expect more deaths."
Nearly half the dead were found in the Border Patrol's rugged Tucson Sector, which saw a 30 percent increase from the same period a year earlier. Deaths also rose in the Laredo and Del Rio sectors in Texas, and in the El Centro Sector of southwestern California.
No sector approached Tucson's sheer numbers: The remains of 60 people were found during the first half of the 2009 fiscal year.
Read the complete article by Arthur H. Rotstein in the Arizona Daily Star