Increase in Illegal Immigrant Deaths

POSTED: Monday, March 2, 2009 - 6:33pm

UPDATED: Thursday, February 25, 2010 - 11:32am

Reports indicate the number of deaths among illegal immigrants trying to get into the Rio Grande Valley has doubled in one year. What has gone down is the amount of immigrants arrested. The Mexican Consulate attributes border patrol presence along the Rio Grande and the new levee-border wall in Hidalgo County for the spike in illegal immigrant deaths.

According to the Mexican Consulate in McAllen, who oversees cases from Hidalgo, Starr and Brooks Counties reports they handled 67 bodies in 2008, compared to 39 in 2007, a 40% increase.

“We’re here for everyone's safety. The Americans and people coming across. We ensure everyone's safe.”

Hidalgo County Officials say people are taking riskier routes because of the increase of border patrol agents surveillance the areas. The U.S. Border Patrol increased their manpower nationwide. It now has 18,000 agents protecting the borders, and out of those 18,000, over 2,300 are in the Rio Grande Valley. Spokesman for the Border Patrol, John Lopez, says the number of apprehensions went down 16% in 2008.

“Our manpower, technology infrastructure is aiding in deterring the entries, thus we have less apprehension in the areas.”

Brownsville Mayor, Pat Ahumada, says the number of apprehensions and deaths can decrease even more if there's a change in immigration reform.

“Some aggressive legislation reform that allows legal immigration to meet our market needs which we have.”

But until that is changed, Lopez says the borders will continue to be patrolled, whether it is in vehicles, bikes or boats.

The Mexican consulate in Brownsville reported 22 deaths in 2008.

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