The two statistics seem to contradict each other. And yet in the cruel, upside down world of immigration and border enforcement, both are true. Net immigration into the country from Mexico has all but screeched to a halt, but those who are trying to enter into the country are dying in ever higher numbers in the middle of their journeys.
The United States is witnessing two simultaneous dynamics. Pew Research Center, responsible for detailing the first finding this spring, found that due to increasingly harsh border enforcement and the ongoing economic recession in the U.S. net migration may have even hit negative rates. Meanwhile, the numbers of bodies found in the desert just this year by border agents have reached almost 150, a 200 percent jump from the last fiscal year, NBC reported today. “[W]hile fewer are crossing, more are dying,” write reporters Hannah Rappleye and Lisa Riordan Seville.
And policymakers have knowingly presided over the annual record-breaking death tolls. Increased political pressure for beefed up border security—a call echoed by both Republicans and Democrats—has directly led to more militarized crossing zones, which have had the collective effect of forcing migrants away from the heavily trafficked metropolitan crossing points toward more treacherous border territory, where migrants battle flash floods, desert heat and the unforgiving outdoors to come to the U.S. It is a dangerous, often deadly journey.
As Frank Clifford wrote for The American Prospect last month:
Since the early 1990s, when the first section of the modern border fence was built, we have reconsecrated the ground, increasing the population of the dead by about 6,000. As the fence and other defensive measures have made the arduous crossing even harder, the mortality rate has risen. By 2009, the risk of dying while crossing the border in Arizona was 17 times greater than it was a decade earlier, according to one analysis by the American Civil Liberties Union, and since 2009, the mortality rate has nearly doubled. About 10 percent of the fatalities are children. Along Arizona’s border with Mexico, that can mean 18 to 25 children die each year. The body count is at best an educated guess, since many of the missing have never been found. We know more about the prehistoric dead than some of the more recent casualties whose only markers are cast-off clothing and empty water bottles.
An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the numbers of those who perished this year.