Border Action Network Supports Measures to Save Lives of Migrants in Southern Arizona

Tucson Sector Border Patrol shares strategies and demonstrates new emergency beacons at Border Safety Initiative Event

Migrant deaths continue to be a reality for our border community. As of today Humane Borders has mapped 2,602 deaths in southern Arizona since October 1, 1999, and the number continues to increase as we approach the extreme climate changes typical of the seasons for the Sonoran Desert.

Although the number of apprehensions has decreased in the Border Patrol Tucson Sector, the rate of people dying has remained constant. Since fiscal year 2011, there have been 16 border crosser remains found for every 10,000 apprehensions — only falling slightly to 15 in 2012.  Dr. John Chamblee, Research Chair for Humane Borders explains, “Over the last ten years, undocumented migrant death rates on the border have increased as proportion of total apprehension rates. At the same time, migrants have been dying closer to the border and further from roads. These shifts result from the escalation of border enforcement strategies that use the landscape as a deterrent. As long as the legal definition of “operational control” on the U.S. southern border includes “the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States,” we should not be surprised such landscape-based approaches are pursued. Humane Borders data show that landscape-based deterrence makes the crossing environment deadlier for migrants. What the data do not show, but I believe to be true nonetheless, is that these policies are not just bad for the migrants, but also that they are bad for those responsible for doing border enforcement, who, under the current definition of a secure border, are being asked to do the impossible.”

Tucson Sector Chief, Manuel Padilla addressed the crowd after leading a delegation through a migrant trail, “Imagine doing the walk we just did in 113-degree weather. It’s impossible for a person to carry enough water.  A person in the desert needs about a gallon of water for every hour walked. It takes some immigrants five to nine days to walk to places like Casa Grande and Phoenix from west of Sasabe. Many risk their lives because they are not aware of the dangers.”
In 2013 Humane Borders launched The International Open GIS Initiative for Missing and Deceased Migrants, which is a result of a common vision and partnership with the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office and the participation of local law enforcement including CBP. Its purpose is to provide geographic information systems-based tools that use publicly available information to grant access to high-quality, frequently updated, and downloadable spatial data regarding migrant deaths. These customizable search tools available through the menu options will allow any user to query data concerning migrant deaths, view the data using on-line maps and tables, and download the data for further use. This tool will support the work of first responders and law enforcement agencies responding to this crisis. This dialog has enhanced the binational education campaigns by humanitarian aid organization and Border Patrol.  Juanita Molina, Executive Director of Humane Borders and Border Action Network stated, “A just and humane society integrates the inherit value of each human being into every institution.  Our government’s disproportionate response to the risk posed by economic migrants has caused thousands of deaths and created a generational footprint on our state. A Border Enforcement measure created to preserve human life is fundamental to our values as a community.”

The Tucson Sector has 22 rescue beacon towers with mirrors and a blue light to attract immigrants who need help. Once there, they can push a red button that sends a signal to the stations.  In fiscal 2013, there were 97 activations that resulted in 165 people being rescued. Through March 21, there have been 56 activations and 80 people rescued.  Pastor Randy Mayer stated, “It is great to see that the Border Patrol is working harder to save immigrant lives that have been pushed into the most dangerous areas of the Sonoran Desert by the Border Patrol’s own tactics.  Our hope is that twenty rescue beacons can soon multiply to thousands and the desire to use the deadly Sonoran Desert as a deterrent can be banished as a heartless and disastrous project.”