In 2009, 419 undocumented migrants died trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, up from 2008 when 390 people died, according to a recent study conducted by the non-partisan research organization National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP). This is the first increase in deaths in four years.
Why has it become more deadly to cross the border?
In 1994, Operation Gatekeeper was enacted as a plan to fight illegal immigration, employing a “prevention and deterrence” strategy. It concentrated resources and border patrolmen in populous areas, and was deemed a success early on because it resulted in less apprehensions. However instead of actually lessening the number of people attempting to cross over, Operation Gatekeeper caused people to seek more remote and dangerous routes to cross through. A 2007 ACLU report reveals that from Operation Gatekeeper’s inception in 1994 to the 2007 publication of the report, death toll estimates range from 3,801 to 5,607. Meanwhile the number of undocumented immigrants have grown from 8.4 million in 2000 to 11.9 million in 2007.
A large number of recorded deaths are due to environmental exposure, particularly desert heat. Some die due to train or motor accidents, drowning, homicide or suicide. And many more have undetermined causes of death. The exact numbers and identities are difficult if not impossible to pinpoint because often remains are not found.
Why should anyone be concerned with the plight of people who have not gone through the standard procedures to gain legal entry? Simply put, no human being should have to risk death in order to gain a new life. While the U.S. immigration system remains full of red tape and sky-high fees with no guarantee of entry, impoverished men, women and children are risking their lives to cross over.
Strengthen the nation, strengthen the immigration system and strengthen families by taking action:
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