At the end of March, the U.S. Border Patrol quietly posted to its site a new set of statistics [PDF] that depict a developing humanitarian emergency on the U.S. side of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Charted here are remains of migrants found each year, in each of the nine sectors into which Border Patrol divides the U.S.-Mexico border. Once they make it over the border, an alarming number of undocumented migrants are dying of exposure, dehydration, or drowning on U.S. soil.
Of the 15 years of data given, 2012 saw the second-highest number of migrant remains: 463, or five migrants dying every four days.
Only in 2005 were there more (492). But in that year, Border Patrol captured [PDF] more than three times as many migrants as it did in 2005. The migrant population was far larger, but the number of deaths was similar. A much larger proportion of the migrant population is dying today.
A big reason is tightened U.S. border security, which has led migrants to attempt the crossing in ever more remote, treacherous, and risky border zones — often, desert wildernesses very far from population centers.
For the past decade, the most deadly of Border Patrol’s nine sectors has been Tucson, Arizona, which has also led all sectors in captured migrants. But that may be changing.
Last year saw a spike in southern Texas, in the Laredo and Rio Grande Valley (McAllen-Brownsville) sectors. The latter sector also saw a doubling in captures of migrants from Central America [PDF] last year; it is likely that more than half of the dead were citizens of Central America, not Mexico.
The situation is worsening rapidly: in just the first three months of 2013, Border Patrol has found a staggering 70 remains in the Rio Grande Valley sector alone.