Saturday, August 22, 2009

Yet more migrants are going to die because the president put immigration reform on the backburner

Tucson Weekly
by Kent Walker

The news out of the recent trilateral summit between Canada, Mexico and the United States is that the Obama administration will wait until 2010 to tackle immigration reform. The justification Obama offered for the delay is that his "plate is full" with more pressing issues: the economy, health care, two wars and so on.

For those concerned with the ongoing border crisis in Southern Arizona, the choice to delay reform is terrible news. As we speak, more migrants have died in fiscal 2009 (161) in the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector than at the same point in 2008 (137), a particularly disturbing fact given the overwhelming amount of anecdotal evidence that illegal immigration is declining.

In early August, we learned that 209 Border Patrol agents were added to the Tucson Sector under the ludicrously mistitled "Operation Guardian." What the Border Patrol would have you believe is that this buildup will enable agents to carry out the mission of its mantra that "a secure border is a safe border." While this thesis may have been tenable five years ago, it no longer holds water. Quite the opposite, in fact, since there is a growing amount of empirical data suggesting that migrant deaths in the Tucson Sector correlate with law enforcement more than any other variable used in research and analysis.

If you press the Border Patrol, they will be unable to account for increases in three separate but related statistical trends: The rate of deaths is up; the risk of dying is up; and the average distance that migrants die from the nearest road is up. With these trends in mind, we should not be surprised that the number of deaths is up, too.

Nevertheless, let's take each of them in turn.

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