With five weeks left in the fiscal year the number of human remains recovered on the Arizona-Sonora border since October 1, 2008 has reached 183 already surpassing last year’s death toll.

The Tucson based Coalición de Derechos Humanos arrived at this number based on data from medical examiner reports from three Arizona border counties in an attempt to reflect more accurately the human cost of irresponsible U.S. border and immigration policies.

The count includes 121 males, 27 females, and 34 of unknown gender. 98 individuals, 54% of the total, have not been identified, in some cases, hampered by the fact that only skeletal remains were recovered. The remains of 168 individuals had been recovered at this point last fiscal year.

Kat Rodriguez of Derechos Humanos blamed the increasing deaths on “policies that are pushing migrants further and further into the gauntlet of death” adding, “How disingenuous is our government to applaud itself for taking measures to rescue people from the danger that it has placed them in? This is precisely why proposals to reform immigration must not agree to more militarization of our borders and communities. Our community security must come before any political gain or media hype.”

The main culprit is the US corporate mandated trade policies like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that weakened the Mexican economy leading to increased unemployment in towns and farming areas.

Immigration rights advocates point out that US policy of ever more border militarization is forcing immigrants further into the hottest and deadliest desert areas, means higher risk for immigrants, less chance of rescue, and human remains which will never be found and accounted for. “Unknown gender” indicates that not enough of a body was recovered to determine sex, and without costly DNA tests it’s impossible to know even this basic information about the individual, making identification and return to their families even more difficult. This fiscal year, the families of at least 34 individuals will suffer the continued agony of not knowing what has become of their loved one.

“In addition to the staggering number of recovered remains reported, Derechos Humanos has received a record number of reports of missing migrants.” continues Rodriguez. The complete list of recovered remains is available on request from the Coalición de Derechos Humanos website: http://www.derechoshumanosaz.net


Joe Bernick
Joe Bernick

Joe Bernick is the Director of Salt of the Earth Labor College, Tucson, Arizona.