Some immigrant rights advocates have estimated that as many as 10,000 migrants have died from exposure and other elements along the borderlands within the last two decades, a number significantly higher than what border officials have stated. The non-partisan Government Accountability Office confirmed in a report this past spring that officials simply haven’t been counting all migrant deaths.
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"Border Patrol has stepped up its efforts to prevent migrants from dying,” El Paso Times reports. “In El Paso Sector, Border Patrol has installed 17 rescue beacons in areas with significant migrant traffic and limited cellphone service." But this ignores Border Patrol’s disturbing history of intentionally destroying lifesaving jugs of water left for migrants by humanitarian workers. No More Deaths in 2018 released videos of sadist agents gleefully kick jugs and pouring out water intended to prevent exposure-related deaths. No More Deaths has also said that border agents have consistently harassed workers, including raiding their medical camp last summer.
“Irrigation district manager Jesus Reyes said most drowning deaths take place in the American Canal alongside the border fence, which under the Trump administration was built taller, to 30 feet,” El Paso Times continued. That was also on purpose. As previously noted, Pedro Rios, a human rights advocate with American Friends Service Committee, said fencing was purposefully made taller in order to disorient migrants.
“That made it more dangerous,” Reyes told El Paso Times. “Those people are coming over and, in some cases, they climb over and fall directly into the canal.” NBC News has reported that in the El Paso sector, hundreds of migrants have been injured. Some have died. The desperate attempts only stand to continue as anti-asylum policy shows no sign of ending any time soon, following Republican-led litigation. When asylum-seekers aren’t offered a chance to actually ask for asylum (which is legal immigration, by the way), they are forced to take dangerous risks.
It hasn’t been just along the borderlands, either. “In May, at least 11 Haitians were killed when a boat capsized near Puerto Rico,” immigrant rights advocacy group America’s Voice said last week. “As more Haitians seek survival and flee their country due to worsening gang violence, political instability, poverty, and the impacts of the climate crisis and natural disasters, and as conditions and discrimination at the border worsen, more migrants are opting to attempt dangerous water passages to the United States.”
“Death has always been part of the calculus under the Border Patrol’s prevention through deterrence strategy,” Rios wrote a San Diego Union-Tribune op-ed last year. “By militarizing border communities and pushing migrants away from public view, migrants are forced to take dangerous routes, in hostile terrain, where more people perish in their attempt to cross into the United States.” Border Network for Human Rights executive director Fernando Garcia told El Paso Times that there’s “a major human rights crisis at the border.”
Border officials have been undercounting migrant deaths along the border, GAO says
'Ongoing pattern of harassment and surveillance': CBP is still tormenting humanitarian volunteers
Border Patrol agents are destroying lifesaving jugs of water left for migrants in the desert