Border crossing rates drop, deaths rise

By Erika Heck and By Erika Heck

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security announced arrests of people who are attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border have hit a 46-year low. Compared to 2016, arrests at the border have decreased 25 percent.

It is no secret Mexicans are more worried about crossing into the United States because of the Trump administration, but Border Patrol attributes this decrease to fewer people attempting to make the journey on foot, and while this is more than likely true, the DHS missed something significant in their reporting: the increase of migrant deaths at the border.

The United Nations reported in August that migrant deaths at the U.S.-Mexico border had increased to 255. While this may seem like a small number in comparison to the thousands who cross the border and live (regardless of detention or success), hundreds more go missing, and their deaths are not recorded or reported.

The start of this increase in migrant deaths can be traced back to Oct. 1, 1994, with the launch of “Operation Gatekeeper.” Border Patrol assigned 200 agents to guard 14 miles of U.S.-Mexico Border south of San Diego, California. These 14 miles of border were commonly crossed by migrants, so it makes sense the additional agents would be placed there.

However, this pushed back where migrants could cross safely as well. The operation resulted in migrants needing to cross over mountain ranges and deserts to get to their destinations in the U.S. These new conditions brought new challenges: dehydration, a lack of water sources on their journey, heat exhaustion, hypothermia (because it can indeed snow in the desert and get cold), animal injuries or general natural causes.

Humanitarian activists estimate that more than 5,600 people have died since the implementation of “Operation Gatekeeper.”

We must be mindful of this situation and these issues when we discuss illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border, especially with the current administration in the White House. As conspiratorial as it may sound, it is important now more than ever to ask questions about the statements our government and government departments put out.

Nowhere in the CBP Border Security Report does it specify anything about the people they detain. The report reduces them to numbers and dehumanizes them by referring to them as “illegal aliens.”

If we want to change anything about our issues on the border, we must first start with the way mainstream society and culture views migrants attempting to cross. We must first end the dehumanizing language put out there by our government and start empathizing more with people we may not know at all. It can be hard sometimes to think of others in a world where you constantly should be doing things for yourself to maintain your survival, but for once, consider yourself to be different person born in another place and think about what you might do to maintain their survival.

Second, we cannot ignore the reality of immigration as it stands right now in the United States. Even though Border Patrol says arrests on the border are decreasing, Immigration and Customs Enforcement detaining people in the interior of the country is on the rise.

Finally, get active in your community. Find ways to help migrants in your area or try to help DACA recipients. Organize or get involved in an organization meant to help migrants. A little help and a reached-out hand goes a long way.