12 Migrant Deaths Reported in Southern Arizona Desert in 2018

In this Aug. 10, 2012 photo, Dr. Angela Soler, a forensic anthropology post doctoral fello
AP File Photo/Ross D. Franklin

An Arizona group that tracks deaths of migrants in the southern Arizona desert reports that 12 have died this year after crossing from Mexico. Officials discovered the bodies between January 2nd and February 27.

All of the migrants are unidentified as their remains had decomposed by the time of discovery. This makes determining the identity of the deceased, their nation of origin, and the time and manner of death difficult to determine, Pima County Medical Examiner Dr. Gregory Hess told Breitbart Texas Monday.

Map of 2018 migrant deaths in southern Arizona. (Map: Arizona OpenGIS Initititive for Deceased Migrants)

Map of 2018 migrant deaths in southern Arizona. (Map: Arizona OpenGIS Initiative for Deceased Migrants)

“We have been experiencing this problem for a very long time,” Dr. Hess explained. “When the migrants decide to attempt to walk through the desert, there is not much margin for error. If something goes wrong, it can certainly be very dangerous.”

Hess said his county processes the remains of about 160 migrants per year. He confirmed the deaths of the 12 so far this year and explained they are continuing their attempts to identify them.

“The bodies that are left exposed to the elements can decompose very quickly,” the medical examiner explained. “In about a month, the birds and animals will leave behind skeletal remains.”

Art students are attempting to help in the identification of the remains found in southern Arizona, Breitbart Texas reported in January.

Sculptors from the New York Academy of Art recently fashioned 3D facial reconstructions of eight men recovered after they died while illegally crossing the U.S. border with Mexico, the Guardian reported. The skulls are held in the Pima County, Arizona, medical examiner’s office because officials are unable to identify the victims.

In addition to sculptures, the art students are employing 3D technology to create images using information provided by medical examiners, including the estimated height, weight, sex, nationality, and ages of the missing migrants. Following the creation of the likeness of the deceased, photographs are taken and the information is sent to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs).

About 50 percent of the remains are discovered by Border Patrol agents during their routine patrols, Hess stated. “The remainder are discovered by hunters, hikers, ranchers, and ATV riders.”

Most of the deaths occur from exposure and lack of water. Hess said they occasionally find evidence of homicides caused by gunshot wounds or other violent trauma. Between Fiscal Years 2000 and 2017 a little more than 80 migrants died from gunshot wounds.

The 2016 Pima County Medical Examiner’s Annual Report reveals that the majority of migrants deaths occur between May and September.

Hess explained that his office provides services to Pima, Santa Cruz, Cochise, and Pinal Counties.

When asked about the impact of border security in migrant deaths Dr. Hess appeared rather neutral.

“Time will tell if this new push for border security will make a difference,” Hess responded. “Regardless of the administration in office, the deaths keep coming.”

Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier’s office is also impacted by the deaths of migrants and the subsequent recovery of their remains.

“Open borders policies are not compassionate public policy,” Sheriff Napier told Breitbart Texas. “When we passively encourage illegal border crossing we are creating a human rights tragedy. These migrants are victimized repeatedly by bandits, human smuggling coyotes, and the harsh elements of this region.”

“Securing the border will prevent deaths and criminal victimization of border crossers,” Napier explained. “Securing the border is, in fact, compassionate public policy.”

Migrants deaths are not the only way that border crossers are victimized. “I hear from many sources that women expect to be sexually assaulted during the border crossing process,” the sheriff said. “They see it as part of the price they have to pay for admission.”

“We need to talk about border security in terms of not only national security but compassionate public policy,” Napier continued. “We should discuss ‘the wall’ as an analogous term referring to various aspects of border security that include manpower, physical barriers, technology, other resources.”

Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas. He is a founding member of the Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTXGAB, and Facebook.


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