U.S. border policy is a serial killer out of control. Where’s the national outrage?

The number of men, women and children dying along Arizona’s southern border remains steady even though illegal immigration has decreased dramatically.

It’s the direct result of a national policies that show little regard for human life.

Would we care if those dying were Europeans, instead of poor people from Mexico and Central America?

Would we care if Republican politicians and their right-wing media machine hadn’t spent so much time dehumanizing the same migrants that American businesses eagerly hire for low wages?

Would we care if the Americans who insist this is a “Christian nation” made the teachings of Jesus part of this debate?

We should care.

Death rate rises

The Border Patrol reports that the total number of apprehensions of undocumented border crossers in Arizona declined from 376,302 in fiscal year 2002 to 70,074 in fiscal 2015.

That’s a decrease of more than 81 percent.

But the number of deaths along the Arizona-Mexico border – as reported by the Pima County Medical Examiner – went from 143 in fiscal 2002 to 135 in 2015.

That’s a 6 percent decrease.

The 2015 death count is up from 129 in 2014, but down from the peak year of 223 in 2010, according to Pima County’s medical examiner, who handles the entire border region except Yuma County.

'Ongoing issue'

“It’s an ongoing issue for us,” says Pima County’s chief medical examiner Dr. Gregory Hess. His office has handled the remains of nearly 2,500 migrants since 2001.

Border Patrol reports finding the remains of 45 people in the Yuma and Tucson sectors so far this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1. Last fiscal year, Border Patrol agents reported 68 deaths -- about half the total handled by Hess’ office.

That’s because Border Patrol only reports remains agents directly encounter. This excludes bodies found by local law enforcement officers, hikers, hunters, humanitarian groups or others, says Hess. As a result, his numbers are higher and present a more accurate picture of what’s going on (a graphic below charts the deaths since 2002).

Border policies have made it more likely that someone will die crossing the border today than in years past. Those dangerous policies also keep the Border Patrol juggling dual roles as cops and rescuers.

Cops and rescuers

So far this fiscal year, Border Patrol made 1,039 migrant rescues, according to John Lawson, communications officer for Customs and Border Protection. In all of fiscal 2015, agents rescued 804 people.

The Border Patrol uses the total number of apprehensions of illegal border crossers as a measure of illegal immigration. By that measure, illegal immigration is way down.

Those who insisted border enforcement had to come first should be ready to enact comprehensive reform. They should be willing to address the root causes of illegal immigration instead of continuing strategies that have proven to be increasingly lethal.

But the applause line for the Republicans' presumed presidential nominee Donald Trump is about more fencing. More of the same.

Why don't we care?

That brings us back to those questions about whether this nation would tolerate so much death along the border if those dying were European, instead of poor people from Mexico and Central America.

Those questions deserve thoughtful consideration.

Of course, we need to control our borders.

But we need to do it with respect for our national ideals. We need leaders willing to go after the serial killer on the border, instead of continuing the relentless dehumanization of migrants.

We need to recognize that our national soul is also withering under the merciless heat of national policies that make it more likely migrants will die in Arizona’s deserts.

This post originally appeared on The Arizona Republic © 2016 www.azcentral.com. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.


About The Author

Linda Valdez Linda Valdez writes commentary with the hope of enlightening, enraging or entertaining. University of Arizona grad. Proud liberal. Mother. Wife. Child of a benevolent God.


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