Every year, hundreds of undocumented migrants die crossing the Texas-Mexico border. Of those deaths that are officially registered, almost half are never identified. Most of the deaths are due to drowning, or dehydration from exposure to the arid conditions of South Texas.
In 1994, the U.S. started to focus Border Patrol personnel in places where illegal crossers could disappear quickly into neighborhoods along California and Texas. This caused illegal immigrants to try to cross along less monitored areas with inhospitable mountain ranges, Indian reservations, military proving grounds, and cactus wilderness. Greater enforcement and worse economic conditions in the U.S. have decreased the number of illegal border crossings, but in spite of this, the number of border deaths has increased. Through August 31, 2009, the Border Patrol reported 519,394 apprehensions, compared with approximately 1.2 million in 2005. Since the United States began increased patrols along the 2,000-mile Mexican border, deaths have occurred at a rate of one every 24 hours. Mexico's foreign ministry says that at least 5,607 deaths occurred between 1994 and 2008.
Here is a news report of a typical incident along the border.
Story from The Monitor, August 19, 2009 7:16 PM
Two illegal immigrants die from heat in Starr County
Another rushed to local hospital
By Ana Ley
NEAR SALINEÑO — A man died from the searing South Texas heat after crossing the Rio Grande illegally Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Border Patrol officials said.
Agents found the man about 2:30 p.m. near the river close to Salineño, a tiny community in southern Starr County. Moments after the agents arrived at the location, the man died, said Border Patrol spokesman John Lopez.
“He was really dehydrated at the time,” Lopez said.
After calling for an ambulance, agents found the nearby body of another man who likely died of heat exhaustion.
A Border Patrol helicopter unit sweeping the area spotted a group of illegal immigrants who had apparently abandoned the two men.
Among the group was a female who was also suffering from severe dehydration, Lopez said. Emergency responders rushed her to a local hospital, where she remained Wednesday evening.
The other five immigrants are in Border Patrol custody, Lopez said. They will likely be deported to their countries of origin.