Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Border deaths in Arizona may break record

This year, Arizona became known as the state with the toughest policies against illegal immigration. That's why Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Eric Peters didn't think thePima County coroner would see a surge in migrants killed while trying to cross Arizona's southern deserts.

But despite beefed-up efforts to stem illegal immigration and an economy that makes work harder to come by, migrants are still trying to get into the country. And many are dying.

In 2007, a record 218 bodies were found in Pima County. This year, the death toll could be worse. Already, authorities have recovered the remains of 170 migrants.

"We're kind of looking at a record-breaking year this year," Peters said.

July was the worst month of this year so far, with 59 people found dead. More than half of them died from heat-related causes. On July 15, the deadliest day of the month, seven bodies were found, among them the remains of Omar Luna Velasquez, 25. The high temperature that day was 108 degrees.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

More migrant deaths rights abuses likely as obama congress increase border security say orgs

President Obama today signed a bill authorizing an additional $600 million to increase border security, strengthening a deadly border militarization strategy. It is a move that pro-migrant groups say will undoubtedly increase the number of migrants who die at the U.S.-Mexico border. They critique the bill which, they say, "contributes nothing to ensuring the safety and rights of migrants and border communities."

The new bill promises to enhance immigration-police collaboration and places more military technology, including surveillance drones, on the border. It enables an additional 1,000 Border Patrol officers, 250 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and 250 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents. These increments do not include Obama's recent announcement of the deployment of another 1200 National Guard troops to patrol the border in Arizona.

The Coalicion de Derechos Humanos (CDH) based in Tucson, Arizona reports that the remains of 214 migrants have been recovered as of July 31, 2010, on the Arizona stretch of the border alone. The tally already surpasses last year's toll with still two months remaining in this fiscal year's final count.

As many as 8,000 migrant dead have been recovered on the U.S.-Mexico border since the U.S. government's current "prevention through deterrence" strategy was implemented in 1994. Human rights groups working to prevent migrant deaths and abuses on the border believe that for every migrant dead found at least ten others are missing in the desert.

Along with a record number of migrant deaths at the border, the U.S. under the Obama Administration is achieving a record number of deportations this fiscal year.

"The Southwest Border Security Bill is a reminder of what type of "CIR," or immigration reform, is being offered: A piece-meal enforcement approach that continues gutting the rights of immigrants, with more jailings and deportations and promises of restrictive access to "legalization" and guest worker programs," laments the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR) in a statement in response to the new law.

Demilitarize, Decriminalize: End Border Deaths

The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR) criticizes the Obama Administration's militarization of immigration control and border communities, a process that they say is "further fueling the criminalization of immigration status."

Their statement continues:

The U.S. must end the deliberate "funneling" of migrants through the border desert, stopping the death of migrants and the criminalization of status.

Instead the U.S. must:

  • increase access to legal immigration with the protection of rights,
  • provide more options for permanent residency and citizenship and
  • create routine programs of legalization.

But this will not be enough if the root causes are not addressed.

Fair and just immigration reforms must be accompanied with fair and just trade policies and initiatives. By taking such measures and steps, the Obama Administration can make immigrant families, workers and communities less vulnerable to abuse and exploitation and create safer environments and strengthen everyone's rights.

Raging Grannys on Border Fence

Friday, July 16, 2010

July migrant deaths could set record

Illegal border crossers are dying at record rates this month.

Since July 1, the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office has handled the bodies of 38 illegal border crossers, said Dr. Bruce Parks, chief medical examiner. That midmonth total puts July on pace to match or break the single-month record of 68 in July 2005.

"I never thought we would see that again," Parks said. "It's scary. Maybe the rain will slow these down."

Parks said his office has been picking up and examining between one and four bodies of illegal immigrants daily since the beginning of the month. Field agents were on their way to pick up four more bodies Thursday, he said. Most of the people are being found recently deceased.

The deadly month puts 2010 even further ahead of the pace from the past three years. From Jan. 1 to July 15, the office has handled 132 bodies of illegal border crossers, up from 93 at the same time last year and 102 in 2008.

It's been a deadly decade for illegal immigrants trying to cross through Arizona. The bodies of more than 1,750 men, women and children have been discovered since 2001 - about 175 a year.

The Pima County Medical Examiner's Office has handled about 1,600 of them.

The fact that the deaths continue at such high numbers despite widespread indications that fewer people are crossing the border has led many experts to conclude that illegal border crossers face a deadlier trek than ever across Arizona's desert.

Apprehensions in the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector have decreased each of the past five years; remittances to Mexico have declined and anecdotal reports show the economic recession has slowed illegal immigration. Yet more people are dying than ever.

Border-county law enforcement, Mexican consular officials, Tohono O'odham tribal officials and humanitarian groups say the buildup of border fencing, technology and agents has caused illegal border crossers to walk longer distances in more treacherous terrain, increasing the likelihood that people will get hurt or fatigued and left behind to die.

The Border Patrol disagrees that it's pushing illegal immigrants into more hazardous terrain and points to its rescue efforts as evidence that its presence prevents deaths rather than causes them.

Contact reporter Brady McCombs at 573-4213 or bmccombs@azstarnet.com

Friday, June 18, 2010

DHS backing off Mexico border fence

It was once an ambitious plan, to build a fence with the most sophisticated technology along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Originally expected to run about 655 miles, the troubled, multibillion-dollar project has now been reduced to a plan for 387 miles, and its designers have lowered its technical standards “to the point that … system performance will be deemed acceptable if it identifies less than 50 percent of items of interest that cross the border.”

“The result,” said the Government Accountability Office in a withering report Thursday afternoon, “is a system that is unlikely to live up to expectations.”

DHS doesn’t even have “a reliable master schedule for delivering” even the “first block of SBInet,” as the Secure Border Initiative is known.

“As a result, it is unclear when the first block will be completed, and continued delays are likely,” the GAO said.

Meanwhile, DHS doesn’t have a realistic grasp of SBINet’s future costs, investigators found.

All in all, the report amounted to a grim picture of the project’s future, noting its “decreasing scope, uncertain timing, unclear value proposition, and limited life cycle management discipline and rigor ….”

It "remains unclear,” the GAO said, “whether the department’s pursuit of SBInet is a cost effective course of action, and if it is, that it will produce expected results on time and within budget.”

Indeed, DHS is rethinking the whole thing, SBINet’s executive directortold Congress, according to the National Journal’s Nextgov.com Web site.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rep. Steve King's Distortions About Border Security

by John Carlos Frey
A few days ago The Iowa Independent featured an article about U.S. Congressman Steve King's assertion that a 2,000-mile long border wall between the U.S. and Mexico would have prevented the shooting death of Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca, a fifteen year old Mexican National who was recently gunned down by a U.S. Border Patrol Agent. Congressman King also said, "A border wall would dramatically reduce illegal immigration." According to King, more border walls would prevent violence, death and illegal immigration. On all accounts Mr. King is factually wrong and possibly lying to score political points. A bullet killed the Mexican teenager, not the lack of a border fence. We have never had more border walls than we do today and the federal government that built the structures cannot even ascertain whether or not they are effective. Yes, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), after billions of dollars in contracts to build the current border walls, cannot determine whether or not they prevent illegal immigration.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Arizona immigration law ignores migrant deaths

Margaret Regan knows the Arizona border tensions up close. The Tucson journalist has written on migration from Mexico over the past decade and has poured her experience into “The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona-Mexico Borderlands,” published by Beacon Press in February. The book focuses on Josseline Hernandez, a 14-year-old girl whose death during her crossing underscores the danger and chaos in the region. Regan believes Arizona's crackdown on illegal immigration overlooks a serious problem: the rising number of migrant deaths.

By Margaret Regan

When Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona signed the nation’s harshest anti-immigration law on Friday, she declared that federal policy had left the state dealing with “an unacceptable situation."

That’s about the only thing she got right when she unleashed a law that gives the police unprecedented powers to stop and interrogate anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant.

Brewer misidentified the real problem. To her, what’s unacceptable is that as many as 600,000 illegal immigrants are living in Arizona. What she should really be worried about is the deaths of some 2,000 border crossers in the Arizona desert in the past 10 years.

Since the year 2000, the state has been ground zero for immigration. Migrants from Mexico and Central America used to take safer routes through big cities like El Paso and San Diego, but the federal government cracked down on those urban crossings in the mid-90s. After that, migration shifted to the dangerous open terrain in between -- that is, to Arizona.

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