Broken Border: Biden immigration policies spur ‘staggering’ death toll
U.S. Border Patrol agent Hermann Rivera looks across the Rio Grande river into Mexico. (Graeme Jennings/Washington Examiner)
Broken Border: Biden immigration policies spur ‘staggering’ death toll
Anna Giaritelli September 22, 07:00 AMSeptember 22, 07:08 AM
Biden’s Broken Border is a five-part Washington Examiner series highlighting the border security records President Joe Biden has shattered in less than two years in office and the trickle-down effects that the crisis is having on the United States. Part One looked at how Biden already broke the record for migrant apprehensions in 2022. Part Two examined the dramatic shift in demographics of migrants crossing the border illegally. Part Three showed the consequences of children crossing the border alone in unprecedented numbers. Part Four, below, looks at the record number of migrants dying while attempting to enter the United States. And Part Five will examine the deadly fentanyl crisis that has rocked communities deep within the country.
More migrants have died attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally under President Joe Biden than ever before — a catastrophic consequence of border policies that have pushed many through dangerous terrain as ports of entry have largely been closed for asylum-seekers.
Senior federal law enforcement officials at Border Patrol headquarters in Washington told the Washington Examiner they expect to surpass 800 bodies recovered at the southern border by the end of September, the conclusion of the government’s fiscal 2022 year.
“It’ll likely hit over 800 for FY22. I thought I would never see that number,” one official not authorized to speak with the media wrote in an email. “This administration does not care about dead Hispanics.”
Internal homeland security data obtained by the Washington Examiner show the government is aware of 746 deceased immigrants found in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California between last October and Sept. 6. Landowners and federal, state, and local police are typically the ones who make the discoveries.
“It is a staggering death toll, and it’s a sign of how desperate people are that they are willing to take these risks,” said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, the American Immigration Council’s policy director, adding that pandemic policies that prevent migrants from seeking asylum at ports of entry are to blame. “Title 42 has sort of encouraged people to keep trying to cross the border until they make it through. That has driven people into more dangerous crossing locations.”
A second senior federal law enforcement official expects the number of bodies recovered may increase this fall because Border Patrol has anticipated a slight increase in people attempting to enter that could be exacerbated by the November midterm elections.
“A potential shift in the House or Senate to Republicans” could prompt migrants to rush to the border before Congress changes hands in January 2023, the second official said. Republicans have rolled out their plan to enhance border security and reduce illegal immigration if they win.
The 746 deaths this year are up from 566 in all of last year and triple the 2020 number. Immigrants died this year from drowning, suffocation, heat exhaustion in tractor-trailers and while walking through remote areas, and vehicle pursuits with fatal crashes.
Images of immigrant deaths under former President Donald Trump had stoked national outrage, in particular among Democrats. But the deaths since Biden took office have not triggered similar responses from Biden’s party despite deaths surpassing the number under the Trump, Obama, Bush, or Clinton years.
In late May, more than 50 immigrants were found dead inside an abandoned overheated tractor-trailer parked in San Antonio, Texas. The driver had abandoned those inside and was later arrested. The incident was the single deadliest smuggling event in modern U.S. history.
“People were promised VIP treatment across the border. That didn’t happen, quite obviously,” Reichlin-Melnick said. “Sometimes when people have gotten all the way to the border and then a man with a gun says, ‘This is what you have to do to go the last bit,’ at that point, it’s too late to stop. And that’s when tragedies happen.”
Wendy Young, president of immigrant advocacy group Kids in Need of Defense, said the drownings of two young children in different parts of Texas on the same day last month were the result of policies like Title 42 that have “forced families to attempt to reach safety between official ports of entry.”
“Practical and innovative solutions can be implemented right now to reduce the risk of catastrophes like these in the future, starting with restoring access to protection at ports of entry,” Young said in a statement. “One more death of a child crossing the border when it can be prevented is unconscionable.”
In September, nine migrants drowned trying to swim across the Rio Grande from the northern Mexican city of Piedras Negras to Eagle Pass, Texas. It was the deadliest day for drownings in Border Patrol’s history. More than three dozen others were rescued from the water by federal agents.
Others have died after trying to climb over the 30-foot-tall border wall erected during Trump’s tenure, including one man who fell to his death in Southern California last month.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has insisted since early 2021 that the government was in the process of creating a safer immigration system to process asylum-seekers at the border and increasingly allow them to seek help while still in their countries of origin. But the number of apprehensions at the southern border under Biden has surpassed 3.4 million, more than the total seen during former President Barack Obama’s two terms, and shows no signs of declining.
The Washington Examiner reached out to the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection to confirm the number of deaths and for information about how the government is responding. A CBP official told the Washington Examiner it is no longer tracking deaths and is unable to provide data. However, data emailed to CBP staff in August and leaked to the Washington Examiner indicate the numbers requested were available.
In response to the increase in attempted illegal entries, Border Patrol agents have acted and jumped in to save the lives of nearly 20,000 migrants this year — a number that is four times higher than in 2019, when Democrats said the southern border was facing a humanitarian and security crisis.
Rep. Mayra Flores (R-TX) said her South Texas community has been significantly affected and that her constituents cannot ignore the tragedy in their community.
“We’re constantly seeing children losing their lives, children being abused,” Flores said. “For us, it’s a humanitarian crisis. What are we doing for these immigrants? Why are we not focusing on illegal immigration so they don’t go through hell to get to the United States?”
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