Homeland Security released its most comprehensive data yet Monday on southwestern border deaths, confirming a massive surge in 2021 that coincided with the start of the chaos that erupted on President Biden’s watch.
The Border Patrol tallied 568 deaths on the U.S.-Mexico boundary in fiscal year 2021, or more than double the total of 2020, the final full year under President Trump.
Among those 2021 deaths were eight children. Authorities also identified 101 women among the dead — almost five times the total from a year before.
The most common cause of death was people overheating during the crossing, accounting for nearly 40% of deaths.
Drownings accounted for 14% of deaths, and the rest included freezing to death, homicides, animal encounters, vehicle-related deaths and one train-related death.
Authorities said more than 20% of cases were either skeletal remains or otherwise didn’t reveal a cause of death.
The Border Patrol’s dataset dates back to 2017, when it began the Missing Migrant Program to try to get a better handle on migrant lives lost.
Before 2021, the worst year on record was 2019, with agents tallying 300 deaths at the southern border.
Analysts say the high total in 2021 is just a matter of math: More people are coming, which means more people are dying.
Those analysts said the Biden administration’s relaxed policies have spurred the larger numbers.
Customs and Border Protection, in releasing the data, blamed the smugglers.
“Smuggling organizations often abandon migrants in remote and dangerous areas, where severe heat, exposure, and miles of unforgiving desert pose countless threats to migrants,” the agency said. “Preventing the loss of life is core to our mission, and CBP personnel endeavor to rescue those in distress. Tragically, the number of deaths in these harsh environments is still too high.”
The Border Patrol has yet to release fiscal year 2022 numbers, but Fox News has reported the number skyrocketed to 856.
Among those was the tragedy in San Antonio last June, where a smuggler abandoned a truck with a broken air conditioning system on the side of the road. By the time authorities reached it, they found dozens of dead migrants, and the death toll would rise to 53.
Investigators have charged two people with the smuggling operation.
Last July, agents in New Mexico were alerted to a group of migrants lost in the barren lands along the border. They found seven migrants alive, but three who’d been left behind succumbed to the hardships of the trip.
The man accused of leading the group told authorities he had left the migrants behind when they couldn’t keep up. He’d asked them to wait an hour to call 911 to give himself and the others in his group enough time to get a head start and avoid being caught by responding agents.
In addition to the Border Patrol data, Customs and Border Protection released a second, smaller set of death data from its Office of Professional Responsibility looking at 151 deaths of people who were encountered by the agency in 2021.
Deaths due to “distress” were most common, though OPR recorded nine deaths as a result of agents’ or officers’ use of force, eight that resulted from a CBP pursuit, 10 drownings and 19 deaths by fall.
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at email@example.com.
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