Sunday, July 22, 2007

Border Deaths Continue: Tucson Desert Claims Two Mothers

"The Border Patrol has recovered at least 17 bodies in the Tucson Sector in July, bringing its fiscal-year total to at least 133. From October 1 through June, the agency had reported 116 border deaths in the Tucson Sector. The number of border deaths is higher, according to records kept by the Pima and Cochise County medical examiners." (Source: Arizona Daily Star, 7/20/07)

Nearly a month after the demise of the Senate bill, some Congressional leaders have re-grouped to press forward the idea of a tightened southern border and increased enforcement measures. The idea of comprehensive immigration reform appears to have faded from the legislative calendar. Indeed, House Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee Chairperson, Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) recently commented,"We are not going to do comprehensive immigration reform."

The troubling reality is that while legislators largely ignore or dance around the possibility of substantive immigration policies, horrific deaths continue on the nation's southern border. Just last week an Arizona newspaper reported the death of a mother while trying to cross the border with her ten-year-old son. This marked the second death of a woman crossing the border with her son within a one-week period. In this instance, the son was found by a Border Patrol agent who informed the agent that his mother had died.

Last week as well, the body of Maria Resendiz Perez (33) of Queretaro, Mexico was found 70 miles west of Tucson. Her body was found with four other survivors in her travel group, including her 10-year-old son. Tucson has experienced 90-plus degree temperatures in the past month, and dehydration is suspected in the death of Resendiz-Perez.

In the meantime, the Mexican Consulate reports that just in the month of July, 28 undocumented immigrants have already died, that is, an average of one person per day.

Since the start of the current fiscal year (October 1, 2006), Tucson's border patrol unit has uncovered the bodies of 116 undocumented immigrants in the Arizona desert. Several local immigrant rights groups contend, however, that 147 bodies have been recovered and that this is a more accurate figure of the deaths for the fiscal year reporting period.

"Whether it is 1 or 100, no one should die. Desperation and hope are two strong emotions that cannot be ignored. Any parent will go to great lengths to create better conditions for their children," comments Sebastian Quinac, a staff member of AFSC's Tucson office.

He concludes, "This is what both these mothers were trying to do. Enforcement will lead people to try to enter through the most dangerous desert terrain and this will surely lead to more deaths. How many more will die before legislators decide to squarely and humanely address the horrendous crisis we now face?"