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Deaths of Illegal Crossers Up in Arizona

September 19, 2004|BETH DeFALCO | Associated Press Writer

PHOENIX — More migrants have died crossing in Arizona so far this fiscal year than in the last despite a high-profile initiative to slow illegal immigration.

The effort, called the Arizona Border Control Initiative, was launched in March to help the Border Patrol to get in hand the busiest illegal crossing corridor along the U.S.-Mexico border. Additional staff and new technology were used on the border.

By Friday, the Border Patrol had reported 146 deaths along Arizona's border so far this fiscal year compared to 136 in all of the last fiscal year. Federal fiscal years end Sept. 30.

The numbers don't include 19 skeletal remains found this year and 12 found last year.

Although the number of deaths in the Border Patrol's Tucson sector have remained about the same this year -- 138 compared to 136 last year -- migrant deaths in Arizona's other sector, which covers the Yuma area, took a sharp increase.

There have been 27 so far, up from 12 last year, said Yuma sector spokesman Joe Brigman. No skeletal remains were discovered in the sector this year.

"I think these numbers are an indictment of the current enforcement strategies," said the Rev. Robin Hoover, founder of Humane Borders, a group that sets out water in the desert for border crossers.

Late last month, Border Patrol Chief David Aguilar said he was pleased with results from the added enforcement on the border, which includes use of unmanned aerial drones and a program to fly illegal immigrants caught in Arizona back to the Mexican interior.

Hoover argues the crackdown on the border has done nothing to solve the problem of migrant crossers who risk desolate environments and sometimes abusive smugglers. He said immigration laws themselves need to be reformed.

Border Patrol officials said the increased number of deaths was a result of the increased migrant flow across the border.

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