Deaths of Immigrants Crossing Sonoran Desert on the Rise

As the summer heat kicks into high gear deaths along the Sonoran border beginning to pile up. 

Before this gets turned into a talking point for the need to secure our out of  control border, it should be noted that the deaths are not American nor tied to any drug violence.

The deaths I am writing about are those of immigrants who attempt to cross the large expanse of the Sonoran desert in 110 degree weather in order to reunite with their family or find below minimum wage work.

In fact the number of deaths of immigrants in the desert is more than all of those killed along the border by drug dealers or any other immigrant related violence north of the border.

Edward Schumacher-Matos of the Washington Post puts a finer point on it in his Op-Ed Immigration Reform is within our Grasp, Meanwhile People Die:

Last year, 317 Americans died fighting in Afghanistan. Guess how many migrants, mostly Mexicans searching for work, died crossing illegally into America? The Border Patrol collected 422 in the last fiscal year, part of a rising trend.

Mid-summer is generally the peak time for immigrants to cross the scorching desert. The period between May and August is always a grizzly one along our southern border, this year is turning into one for the record books.

So many bodies of unauthorized migrants are being found in the Arizona desert this month, the Associated Press reported, that the Pima County Medical Examiner was stacking them like boxes of fish in a refrigerated truck.

Forty bodies were found in just the first half of the month.

With such a shocking amount of death, with so much human life lost, one would think that this would play into the political debate in Washington D.C. This of course is not the case.

Yet these deaths figure little in the debate over immigration. There is faint sense of scandal, of tragedy or, certainly, of urgency to agree on a solution. The extremists rule, with one side calling for more enforcement and the other saying enforcement doesn't work.

The former has the louder voice today, making it the bigger culprit, but the latter -- humanitarian groups, for one -- share in the blame. They seem not to find any enforcement policy they like, abandoning responsibility.

And this particular dichotomy has created an environment where not much is done about fixing our broken immigration system. There has been little movement on increasing work Visa's, creating a temporary work program, improved workplace enforcement, and recruitment of highly skilled immigrants. Meanwhile people die terrible deaths trying to cross the desert, to find below minimum wage work.

According to Derechos Humanos's a non-profit that does humanitarian work along the border, since 2000 there have been 2,004 deaths along the border.

It is not just the deaths in and of themselves that makes the current political conversation and lack of movement on CIR so frustrating, it is how people crossing the border are dying. Often the bodies found in the desert cannot be identified because they have been reduced to mummified remains. Schumacher-Matos recounts the experience in his op-ed:

And most die in the desert. Here is how Luis Alberto Urrea, in his book, "The Devil's Highway," described what happens:

"Dehydration had reduced all your inner streams to sluggish mudholes. . . . Your sweat runs out. . . . Your temperature redlines -- you hit 105, 106, 108 degrees. . . . Your muscles, lacking water, feed on themselves. They break down and start to rot. . . . The system closes down in a series. Your kidney, your bladder, your heart."

As the summer heat continues, the remains continue to pile up, when there are so many ways to begin on fixing our immigration system, nothing much is done.