Migrants are dying at the Texas border and the new asylum measure will worsen things, advocates say

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Thousands of people who are trying to cross the southern border during the summer are dying each year due to the extreme heat that this year started sooner than usual. Officials provide data about the number of deaths at the California, Texas, and Arizona borders, but non-profit organizations and advocates claim that there have been two to four times as many deaths as those reported by the government in certain border sectors in the last few years.

The heat is to blame

“Heatstroke and dehydration,” caused by extreme heat during the summer months, are the two most common reasons for migrants’ deaths. Last week, around 34 million people—from the southern tip of Texas across Arizona and up into California and Nevada—were under heat alerts, meaning that extreme heat started sooner than usual this year. And we already have the first reported deaths in migrants—a total of six so far—four of whom have been identified.

Extreme conditions

In the midst of a brutal heatwave in the southwest, at least four individuals have lost their lives while crossing the US-Mexico border near El Paso, Texas. On Thursday, the temperature in El Paso soared to 106F, the highest recorded this year. The US Border Patrol in El Paso reported that earlier in the month, four deaths were confirmed to be due to “heatstroke and dehydration.” Additionally, US Customs and Border Protection disclosed to the Guardian that two presumed migrants died last week, although their identities and exact causes of death are still pending confirmation from the local coroner’s office.

Expected record

“As temperatures soar and summer approaches, the treacherous conditions of the desert are proving increasingly dangerous,” U.S. Customs and Border Patrol said in a statement in March. “The Border Patrol is intensifying its efforts to prevent these tragedies through increased patrols and deployment of specialized Border Patrol Search, Trauma and Rescue Teams (BORSTAR). These BORSTAR teams are equipped with advanced technology, including drones and heat-sensing devices, to locate and assist distressed individuals more rapidly.”

This year, the extreme heat in the southwest has arrived earlier than usual, and experts are predicting that it might set new records. Last year, during severe heatwaves across the area, the CBP El Paso sector documented 686 deaths and disappearances, marking the highest toll ever recorded by the agency.

In the midst of a brutal heatwave in the southwest, at least four individuals have lost their lives while crossing the Texas border
U.S. Border Patrol agent. Courtesy of U.S. Border Patrol Arizona Facebook

Read also: “Hostile environment”: NYC in chaos as migrant crisis fueled by controversial Texas measure escalates

Things to get worse

Advocates for migrants have warned the new restrictions on asylum access ordered by Joe Biden this week will further push migrants to take riskier journeys across the border in brutal conditions.

“At a time that we’re seeing record-high heat in the region, enacting an executive order that basically shuts down the border with little notice is another way that our policies put people at risk,” said Javier Hidalgo, legal director at Raices, an immigrant support and advocacy group in Texas.

Increasingly, many of those attempting to cross into the US are fleeing extreme weather and climate disasters in their home countries. US policies at the border, Hidalgo added, “are not centering human life”.

In the midst of a brutal heatwave in the southwest, at least four individuals have lost their lives while crossing the Texas border
Rescue Beacon in Arizona. Courtesy of U.S. Border Patrol Arizona Facebook

The executive action

“Our intent is to really change the risk calculus of individuals before they leave their countries of origin and incentivize them to use lawful pathways that we have made available to them and keep them out of the hands of exploitative smugglers,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas told ABC News’ “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz.

In the midst of a brutal heatwave in the southwest, at least four individuals have lost their lives while crossing the Texas border
Border wall. Credit: Unsplash Premium

Read also: California border agent linked to massive drug trafficking operations with Mexican cartels arrested and charged

The new executive actions were introduced last week creating a rule that will reject migrants attempting to claim asylum if they cross illegally between ports of entry. This rule activates when there are seven consecutive days with an average of 2,500 or more encounters. It will remain in effect until the seven-day average falls to 1,500 or fewer, say administration officials.

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