At least 853 migrants crossing the US-Mexico border died in the past 12 months – a record high

Rose Lee said that her nephew left his native Peru and traveled to the US-Mexico border in search of his “American dream”. But he said he didn’t think the discovery would cost him his life.

Alan Paredes Salazar, 37, drowned in early September while trying to cross the Rio Grande with about a dozen other migrants, whose dead body found in river by US Border Patrol agents, his family said. The medical examiner’s office in Webb County, Texas, confirmed that it processed the body of Peredes Salazar.

“The death of my nephew has devastated us,” said Lee, who lives in Southern California. “It’s a very sad death, traveling so far and dying in an unknown place.”

The death of Parades Salazar was no anomaly. At least 853 migrants have died trying to cross the US-Mexico border illegally over the past 12 months, according to internal Border Patrol data obtained by CBS News, making fiscal year 2022 for migrants recorded by the US government. Turned out to be the deadliest year ever.

Migration policy analysts said the figure, which surpassed the previous record of 546 migrant deaths recorded by the Border Patrol in FY21, is probably lower due to data collection limits. An April report by a federal watchdog found that the Border Patrol did not collect and record “complete data on migrant deaths”.

This number also does not include all deaths of migrants who died trying to reach or cross the US border, as the Border Patrol only counts migrants that it identified or processed in US territory. Still, the record deaths reported by the Border Patrol offer a grim glimpse of the dangerous, and sometimes fatal, trek that millions of migrants have undertaken over the years hoping to reach the US.

many migrants Drowned in the Rio Grande. Others have died from extreme heat in the inhospitable desert area along parts of the American southern border. US officials have also reported fatal falls from border barriers that migrants sometimes climb over.

But even when migrants successfully enter the US, the trek can be fatal, as evidenced by the death of 53 migrants who were abandoned inside a tractor-trailer in July, Deadliest case of human trafficking in American history.

In a statement to CBS News, Cecilia Barreda, a spokeswoman for Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which oversees the Border Patrol, said human traffickers are risking the lives of migrants to make a profit.

“Smuggling organizations are releasing migrants into remote and dangerous areas, which has increased the number of people rescued, but also tragically increased the number of deaths,” Barreda said. “The area along the border is extreme, the summer heat is intense, and miles of desert migrants must increase after crossing the border in many areas.”

In addition to reporting an unprecedented number of migrant deaths in previous years, the Border Patrol has also recorded a sharp increase in rescue or life-saving operations in which agents assist migrants in distress. CBP figures show that the Border Patrol recorded 22,014 migrant rescues in fiscal year 2022, a 72% increase from 2021.

The recent spike in migrant deaths, current and former US immigration officials said, may be partly attributed to the increasing number of migrants who have crossed the US-Mexico border illegally over the past two years.

Federal officials on the US southern border stopped migrants nearly 2.4 million times in fiscal year 2022, the highest level ever. While the tally included 1.1 million evictions under a pandemic-era ban known as Title 42, as well as a large number of repetitive crossings, the migration wave has strained government resources and the Biden administration. major human challenges.

“It’s a high number,” said Theresa Cardinal Brown, a former Homeland Security immigration official under former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, referring to the migrant deaths. “But it’s also in a record year for everything else.”

“Is it more dangerous? Yes. But a lot of people are trying,” said Cardinal Brown, who now serves as managing director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Border crossings by migrants rise to highest level since 2006
A smuggler leads a fleet full of migrants seeking asylum in the Rio Grande in Roma, Texas, on June 19, 2021.

Getty Images

Advocates for immigrants have also blamed US policies like Title 42 – which allows officials to immediately expel some migrants without allowing them to request asylum – and fears that migrants try to enter the US. Prompts to take a more dangerous route to escape.

Cardinal Brown said, for decades, US border policy has focused on making it more difficult, and in some ways, more dangerous, for migrants to stop trying to enter the country illegally. But she said the deaths also stem partly from international smuggling networks and migrants’ willingness to embark on dangerous journeys to escape poverty, unemployment and violence in their home country.

Cardinal Brown said, “The answer is that desperate people do desperate things, and desperate things are often dangerous things.” “Is there a role that US policy plays? Well, yes. But migrants also have a role to play in making the decision to do that and in encouraging it.”

While the International Organization for Migration, a United Nations affiliated group, recorded more than 1,200 migrant deaths in the Western Hemisphere in 2021, it tracked 728 migrant deaths at the US-Mexico border, calling it “the deadliest land crossing in the world”. . ,

Lee said that his nephew left Peru to work and provide a better future for his wife and 5-year-old son, noting that he would constantly ask her for help moving to America. Traveled along the US border.

On 1 September, Lee said that his brother had managed to call him to inform him that a strong current in the Rio Grande swept away Parades Salazar and other migrants, drowning them. She said it took her several days to verify with officials in Texas that her nephew had died.

Alan Parades Salazari

family photo

Even after nearly two months have passed, Lee said she has not been able to claim the body of her nephew, whom she wants to bring back to Peru. She called him a loving family member and said that she considered him as her son.

“His dreams were cut short,” Lee said. His dreams of helping his parents, his wife, his child.

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