Migrant Deaths and the 'New Disappeared' on the South Texas Border

Migrant Deaths and the 'New Disappeared' on the South Texas Border

"Migrant border deaths are at an all-time high in the state of Texas according to a new report.  Over the past two decades thousands of men, women, and children have died attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.  Even as the number of migrants crossing the border falls, members of the U.S. Congress are pushing for an increase in border “security”, pouring more and more public money into the very enforcement policies that produce the deaths.

The causal link between the deaths of migrant men, women and children, and U.S. border security policies is recognized and in large part, intentional.  The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services designed a strategy of “Prevention-through-deterrence” that creates obstacles and difficulties to discourage undocumented immigration.  Experts have demonstrated a “funnel effect” in which enforcement practices channel migrants toward dangerous and deadly regions, namely the Arizona and Texas desert.

The Border Patrol deterrence strategy states, “The prediction is that with traditional entry and smuggling routes disrupted, illegal traffic will be deterred, or forced over more hostile terrain, less suited for crossing and more suited for enforcement”.  The strategy was first issued in its 1994 Strategic Plan—not coincidentally the year the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into affect, causing a huge spike in migration out of rural Mexico toward the United States.

The “obstacles” placed in the path of undocumented migrants include injury, illness and deaths.  For immigrant families, the death of a loved one is often not even the end of this brutal journey, since many of the bodies found in the desert are unidentified and the migrants remain missing.

In Texas, DNA testing of recovered human remains is required by state law, but is not being carried out in a standardized and coordinated manner to identify the dead.  Migrants have become the “new disappeared”, to use a term from the 1970s and 1980s to name those disappeared in the context of Civil Wars and repressive military regimes in Central and South America." - Prof. Christine Kovic, June 21, 2013.