Scorching heat caused deaths to double at busiest US-Mexico border route | US-Mexico border

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US-Mexico border

More than 100 of 148 recorded deaths in El Paso sector were recorded between May and September when heat topped 100F

Scorching summer temperatures caused the number of deaths along one of the busiest migrant routes into the US to more than double in the 2023 fiscal year that closed on Sunday, according to data from the US border patrol.

More than 100 of the 148 recorded deaths in the patrol’s El Paso sector were recorded between May and September when temperatures were at or above 100F (37.7C) for 44 consecutive days, the El Paso Times said on Tuesday.

In the 2022 fiscal year, the total number of deaths in the sector, which stretches from Hudspeth county in Texas, and across New Mexico into Arizona, was 71. And in the decade to 2018, migrant deaths in the same area did not reach double figures in any annual period, for a combined 10-year total of 39.

“It’s not new, but it’s a big topic and it’s more numbers,” Robert Rojas, commander of the El Paso sheriff’s office, told the newspaper.

“It’s not just Mexican nationals trying to cross; you have many different countries of origin. It’s possible that they don’t know the terrain, the climate or what they are coming into.”

The figures will fuel Republican arguments that the Biden administration is failing to secure the southern border, where more than 800 migrants deaths in 2022 across all sectors was already a record.

The Times said many of the El Paso sector deaths this year were concentrated around the neighboring New Mexico cities of Sunland Park and Santa Teresa, bordering Texas and Mexico. The migrants who died in the desert region might not have realized how close they were to built-up areas or being rescued, authorities said.

“When you are standing on the dirt, sometimes you don’t see the city because of the mesquite mounds,” Sunland Park fire chief Danny Medrano told the El Paso Times.

“We don’t know if they are given bad directions or if they are hiding. It is difficult to see the city sometimes and you are only half a mile away.”

The newspaper said field investigators for New Mexico’s office of the medical examiner were called to areas near the cities four times in a single day, with members of the public and border patrol agents discovering bodies.

While the scorching desert heat accounted for most of the deaths, more than half a dozen others died in the water. Two victims drowned in July, caught in floating devices laid by border agents in Texas described by immigration advocates as “like traps laid for animals”.

Some, officials say, were caught in fast-moving water in a network of irrigation canals and rivers that appeared calm on the surface.

Customs and border protection agents in the El Paso sector also recorded the highest number of migrant encounters in the just ended fiscal year – more than 400,000, easily topping last year’s figure of 308,000.

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