Fears of surge in deaths as migrants flood US border in summer heat

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An expected surge in the number of illegal immigrants attempting to cross the US-Mexico border this summer has law enforcement officials warning of a spike in the number of deaths among those making the dangerous journey.

“It’s going to be a brutal summer,” Brooks County, Texas sheriff’s deputy Don White told The Washington Post Thursday, adding that county law enforcement has recovered 34 bodies and other remains since the beginning of this year.

“I’ve never seen so many people coming through,” White added. “It’s just crazy right now.”

In Arizona, Border Patrol agents found two dead migrants in separate locations near Yuma, the agency announced Thursday. An agent tracking a group through the Barry M. Goldwater bombing range on Monday found the body of a 40-year-old Mexican man who apparently died two weeks earlier. On Tuesday, agents responding to a call for help from a group found a deceased 20-year-old Guatemalan woman.

White added the surge at the border is unlike anything he's previously seen.
White added the surge at the border is unlike anything he’s previously seen.
Charlie Riedel/AP

“It doesn’t take much,” Lenin Padilla, a Border Patrol agent and program manager, told the Associated Press. “Proof of that is the woman. She was only a couple miles north of the border. It’s hot out there.” (A high of 108 degrees was forecast for Yuma on Saturday).

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) statistics indicate that the number of illegal immigrants attempting to cross the border in a given year peaks in May before dropping off in June, July and August. However, the same statistics suggest this year’s peak will be higher than any in at least two decades.

In April, CBP encountered 178,622 people attempting to enter the United States, the most since the same month in 2000. The largest proportion of those encounters, 111,301, were with single adults, but the number of unaccompanied children encountered by CBP also spiked in May of 2018 and 2019.

In addition, CBP said it had carried out “life-saving rescues” of 5,787 people since Oct. 1 of last year. By comparison, just 5,255 life-saving rescues were carried out between October of 2019 and September of 2020.

Padilla, coordinator for Yuma Sector’s Missing Migrant Program, said Border Patrol is working with the Mexican government and non-government organizations to try to discourage migrants from crossing barren areas of the dessert, especially during the summer heat.

CBP statistics indicate 2021's immigration peak will be higher than previous years.
CBP statistics indicate 2021’s immigration peak will be higher than previous years.
Ricardo Arduengo/AP

“Unfortunately, we are expecting the number of 911 calls to increase as the summer months come,” he told AP.

White told The Washington Post that he’s seen less of a Border Patrol presence along common migration paths in recent months due to the need to process the number of families and kids who are requesting asylum.

“My guys will be carrying extra IV bags this summer for the ones we may find,” he promised.

With Post Wires



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