The image of a migrant father and toddler washed up on the side of the Rio Grande over the summer illustrated the enormous risks many have taken to get to the United States.
Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria, drowned in late June at the very end of the family’s 1,500-mile journey from El Salvador. Days earlier, the bodies of a 20-year-old woman, two babies, and a toddler were found nearby along the same river, which separates Texas from Mexico.
Data yet to be publicly released, obtained by the Washington Examiner, show the bodies of 300 people were found by U.S. Border Patrol agents working on the American side of the border in fiscal 2019, which started Oct. 1, 2018, and went through September. Border Patrol agents on the southwest boundary arrested more than 851,000 people who illegally crossed into the country that year.
Border Patrol has compiled and released data on the number of recovered bodies since 1998, now at approximately 7,800. Over the past five years, agents reported finding anywhere from 251 to 329 bodies each year. But in each of those years, the number of illegal immigrant arrests was roughly half the total arrested in 2019, suggesting a more people tried to cross in 2019, and a lower percentage died doing so.
Border Patrol data since 1998 shows a shift in the demographics of people illegally crossing the border. Mostly adults were arrested in the 2000s and early 2010s, but that has shifted to more families and children.
Across the nine regions that Border Patrol divides the U.S.-Mexico border into, the Laredo and Rio Grande Valley sections of southeastern Texas were the most deadly for migrants. Sixty-nine bodies were recovered in the Rio Grande Valley, which runs up against the Gulf of Mexico. West of the Rio Grande Valley in Laredo, agents found 78 bodies last year.
Agents in Arizona’s Tucson and Yuma regions used to see the most recovered bodies, but now southeast Texas does. Capps said regions where most bodies are found tend to be where the greatest number of arrests took place because those areas have higher foot traffic.
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