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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...
A new book by Norma Price, Ted Parks, and Kathryn Ferguson that seeks to document some of the stories of the thousands of people that have attempted to cross this unforgiving terrain.
Information on Arizona Public Media.
Purchase the book at the University of Arizona Press.
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Since November, nine have died from hypothermia -- the same number as in the previous three winters combined.
February 14, 2010
An unusually wet winter in Arizona has been lethal for illegal immigrants crossing from Mexico into the United States, with nine people dying from hypothermia since November.
The same number of immigrants died of hypothermia during the previous three winters combined.
"When you are wet, your risk is a lot higher," said Dr. Bruce Parks, chief medical examiner in Pima County. "Wet clothing takes the heat away from the body. You've lost that insulation -- your body can't react."
The 2.1 inches of rain that fell in Tucson last month made it the eighth-wettest January in Arizona's recorded history, and the wettest since 1993, according to the National Weather Service.
And the 0.6 inch of rainfall through the first 10 days of this month is nearly double the average for that time period, said Ken Drozd of the National Weather Service.
During one particularly wet week in January, the bodies of three illegal immigrants who died of hypothermia were found.
Among them was Enrique Zapata Senduo, a 47-year-old Mexican who died in a pool of muddy water under a cottonwood tree in the desert southwest of Picacho Peak, about 75 miles southeast of Phoenix.
A rancher discovered his wet body in the late morning on Jan. 26. Zapata left his hometown of Mazatlan on Jan. 13 and planned to cross the border near Sasabe, Ariz., meaning he was probably out in the desert during the rainy days of Jan. 20-23, when nearly 2 inches fell in southern Arizona.
It's possible that other illegal border crossers also have died from the cold this year or in past years, but the cause of death often can't be determined because of the conditions of the bodies.
This winter, for instance, the cause of death of 32 of the first 57 bodies found was undetermined, according to the Arizona Daily Star's border-death database. The database is compiled using information from the Pima and Cochise county medical examiners' offices.
Despite an estimated slowdown in illegal crossings, the number of bodies found continues at the same or higher levels.
The 60 bodies found Nov. 1 through Feb. 12 mark a 58% increase from the same period last year and are more than in any of the previous five years.
Border authorities and humanitarian groups attribute the rise in deaths to the increase of agents and border fences, which cause immigrants to walk longer distances in more-treacherous terrain.
"They are staying up in the mountains longer than they ever have before," said Gene Lefebvre, a member of the humanitarian group No More Deaths. "That means they are more likely to get injured or exhausted."
An Associated Press article from the LA Times.
In the last three years, the 2009 period was the most tragic for illegal immigrants.
LAREDO, TX.- In the last three years, the 2009 period was the most tragic for illegal immigrants. In 12 months 49 lives were lost that intended to cross to the United States.
The Mexican Consulate General of this city confirmed that in 2007, 39 illegal immigrants died and 29 for 2008.
In 2008 16 out of 29 died from a heat stroke, 10 drowned in the Rio Bravo, 1 on the railroad tracks and 2 others in divers accidents. Out of the 29 victims, 21 were identified as mexicans.
It is noteworthy to mention that the Mexican Consulate General along with the Border Patrol had prevention campaigns throughout the year with the intent of reducing the death toll.
Migratory authorities have trained personnel to rescue people and for first aid, they also have special equipped vehicles to rescue those they have found in the fields.
Article from the Laredo Sun.
An additional 209 U.S. Border Patrol agents will be in Arizona starting today in an attempt to address border deaths in the Southwest border's deadliest stretch.
The agency's "Operation Guardian" initiative kicks off after the two deadliest months for border deaths — June and July — have already passed.
At least 40 bodies of illegal immigrants were recovered in July across Arizona's stretch of U.S.-Mexico border from New Mexico to Yuma County, and at least 135 bodies have been found along that stretch since Jan. 1, up from 120 at the same time last year, medical examiners' records show.
The agents assigned to the Tucson Sector in the "Operation Guardian," program will be here through September, said Omar Candelaria, a Border Patrol Tucson Sector spokesman. They'll be used primarily in processing centers and at highway checkpoints to free up the other 3,300 full-time agents in the sector.
"It allows us to have a bigger presence out there," Candelaria said. "That will allow our agents that are from the area to be out in the field and reach out to more people."
From Oct. 1 through June, the most up-to-date figures available from the agency, agents in the Tucson Sector had rescued 300 people, he said.
While the extra help is welcome, the initiative is too little, too late, said Robin Hoover, president of Humane Borders, which operates water stations in the desert.
"They are responding kind of late in the game," Hoover said. "The numbers are higher, the rate is higher and the feds are just now responding to it. It looks to me like they don't monitor this situation very closely."
The Arizona Daily Star's border-death database shows that June and July are the two deadliest months for illegal immigrants.
An average of 43 bodies have been recovered each July from 2004-2009, along with 31 bodies each June during that span, the database shows.
August is the third-most dangerous month, with an average of 24 bodies each year from 2004-2008.
When asked about why the program is starting in August and not sooner, Candelaria said, "This is when we were able to get them in here."
Even if the program had begun earlier this summer, simply putting extra agents would not have necessarily made the border safer, Hoover said. The buildup of agents, fences and technology in the last five to 10 years in Arizona has pushed illegal immigrants into more remote and dangerous routes, he said.
The Tucson Sector accounts for half of all bodies found along the U.S.-Mexico border, and the total number of deaths and the rate of death are both up this year compared to past years, the Arizona Daily Star's border death database shows.
The risk of dying is 1.5 times higher today compared with five years ago and 17 times greater than in 1998, the Arizona Daily Star's border-death database shows.
"They rescue a lot of people, but they created the situation in the first place," said Hoover, referring to the fact that he and others say the additional agents have pushed illegal immigrants into more remote and dangerous routes.
Read the entire article by Brady McCombs in the Arizona Daily Star