The number of migrants dying from extreme heat on the U.S.-Mexico border rose 55 percent in the past nine months after an increase in unaccompanied children and families trying to enter the United States illegally, the U.S. government said on Monday.
Heat-related deaths, the main cause of migrant fatalities on the U.S. southwest border, rose to 48, up from 31 over the same period in 2017, said U.S. Border Patrol spokesman Salvador Zamora.
…The death toll is expected to rise in the triple-digit heat of summer months as vulnerable, unacclimatized immigrants attempt to cross harsh environments, putting border fatalities on track for a year-on-year increase in 2018, Zamora said.
…Humanitarian groups such as San Diego-based Border Angels say the main cause of rising deaths is tighter border security and law enforcement, such as the recent imposition of a “zero tolerance” policy for illegal border crossers. That has prompted migrants to make long treks through hostile terrain via remote crossing points.
…Until four years ago, the vast majority of migrants arrested at the border were Mexicans. With improved economic conditions in Mexico, their number has fallen, as have overall arrests on the border, which dropped to 303,916 in 2017, down 26 percent from 2016, according to Border Patrol data.
Immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador now top the list of people arrested at the southern border as gun and gang-related violence drives an exodus from those countries, according to U.S. government data.
…“You really know someone is leaving a bad situation if they’re willing to risk their lives and their children’s’ lives for a chance to live,” said Cordero, 36, a water drop leader.
Morones suspects Border Patrol agents of destroying the water supplies left by his group. One such act was caught on video in Arizona by another humanitarian group called No More Deaths.