US border crisis: Migrants left to perish in desert by traffickers, rescue teams find a 'leg bone or skull'

The number of unidentified bodies seen along Mexico border areas has gone up alarmingly in recent times, bringing to the fore the plight of those seeking to find a safe shelter in the US


                            US border crisis: Migrants left to perish in desert by traffickers, rescue teams find a 'leg bone or skull'
One of the worst aspects of the border problem has been the fast rise in the number of unaccompanied kids (Getty Images)

The administration of President Joe Biden has found itself in a spot over its immigration policy. With the new president vowing to reverse the policies of his predecessor Donald Trump and wanting to give citizenship to millions of undocumented immigrants in the US, the country’s southern border has seen waves of people trying to get into the US going up alarmingly. Biden’s critics and opponents have slammed his administration for the mess and recently, the president was heard advising the migrants in an interview to not to come over. While his administration and party have tried to show that the problem is one that was created by the previous administration, the Democratic president is clearly feeling the pressure over its border policy.

One of the worst aspects of the border problem has been the fast rise in the number of unaccompanied kids. The national attention has fallen on the number of minors who have been detained along the southwest border. However, it is only a part of the entire story as current and former law enforcement officials have revealed. 

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There are also issues like the migrants threatening the border communities with Covid-19 as many of them are being tested positive or smugglers having a gala time with the hapless migrants waiting for an opportunity to enter America. But perhaps the most pathetic crisis which is being witnessed at the borders is that several of the migrants seeking an entry in the US are not getting rescued. 

Relatives hold the coffin of Rivaldo Danilo Jimenez on March 14, 2021 in Comitancillo, Guatemala. 19 shot and charred bodies were found in two trucks on January 22, 2019 along the Mexican-American border town of Camargo in Tamaulipas. 16 of them were undocumented Guatemalan migrants seeking to reach the United States. 12 Mexican police officers of the elite GOPE group remain detained, accused of murder, abuse of authority and filing fraudulent reports. (Getty Images)

Last year, Arizona Daily Star reported that while the pandemic saw a major fall in the number of migrants at the southwest border, the number of unidentified bodies seen along Arizona’s Mexico border went up alarmingly. The report cited statistics compiled by Humane Borders that said remains of 181 migrants were found in the Arizona desert through the end of September 2020, which is 37 more than the total found in 2019 and the most since 2013. 

The Tucson-based newspaper cited humanitarian groups and county officials along the border blaming Washington’s border security policies for the rising number of deaths. They said the policies, along with the harsh weather conditions and the pandemic-time restrictions, have pushed the migrants to take riskier routes to enter the US. “It’s kind of like stopping water: If you block it up in one place, it’s going to go somewhere else,” the Daily Star quoted then-Pima County sheriff Mark Napier as saying. “We’re seeing the results of that as an increase in deaths.”

ABC News cited a source in the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that said the agency had not compiled death statistics for the broader southwest border in 2020. But its agents found in 2019, before the pandemic started, more than 300 bodies of unidentified migrants along the border. Last year, CBP said these alarming statistics are “a somber reminder of human smugglers’ cruelty and the hazards migrants face in their dangerous journey to the US”. 

Migrants are only a 'piece of beef' to smugglers

Jeff Self, who recently retired from the Border Patrol, who called the migrants a desperate lot which wants to flee challenges in their own countries in Central America, told ABC that the smugglers often hide from the migrants the challenges that await them at the US-Mexico border. According to him, they only care about “the bottom dollar” and the migrants are nothing more than “a piece of beef” to them.

Napier revealed more to the Star about the plight of those migrants who try to win extreme weather conditions to reach the US. He said it is not the authorities that find many of those migrants but rather them who themselves seek help from the authorities. The former sheriff said more than 85 percent of his calls to the CBP are to help migrants who called 911 after finding themselves stranded in the middle of the desert, with little water. When the authorities reach out to those migrants, they end up seeing just a “leg bone or part of skull”. 

Scott Warren, a volunteer for the humanitarian aid organization No More Deaths walks into the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to deliver food and water along remote desert trails used by undocumented immigrants on May 10, 2019 near Ajo, Arizona. The number of immigrant deaths, mostly due to dehydration and exposure, has risen as higher border security in urban border areas has pushed immigrant crossing routes into more remote regions. (Getty Images)

Some weeks ago, Border Patrol officials from Van Horn, Texas, rescued a woman who had been abandoned to die for nearly a week in the middle of the severe winter storm that hit much of the state’s electricity grid. She was found to be suffering from hypothermia and a “severe frostbite”, the agency said. In February, another woman was found “unresponsive” in near-freezing temperatures by a Border Patrol agent from Santa Teresa, New Mexico. She was taken to a hospital but while she recovered, she tested Covid-19 positive, making it another threatening story.

But yet, these two women were lucky that they could still find themselves alive.

For the border agents, too, the pressure has gone up. In the border states of Texas, New Mexico and California, the frequency of search-and-rescue missions by the agents has nearly doubled. While the 2019 and 2020, the Border Patrol conducted nearly 5,000 rescue missions each year, it has carried out nearly 400 in the last five months and with Biden Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas saying recently that the number of individuals stopped by the Border Patrol at the southwest border around this time would be the highest in 20 years, one would remain skeptical over the situation improving any time soon under the new administration.