TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Arizona Sonoran Desert is among the most beautiful landscapes in the world. However, beyond it’s beauty experts say there is a crisis not many people are aware of.
The year 2020 is on track to be among the top three deadliest years for undocumented migrants crossing the Arizona-Mexico border.
The Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner said that despite restrictions of COVID-19 at the ports of entry and widespread border wall construction, more people are crossing this year in remote areas of the desert resulting in hundreds of deaths.
“In 2020, we’ve had an uptick of finding fresh remains, which means that those remains are those who’ve died relatively close to the time they were found," said Greg Hess, the Chief Medical Examiner with the Pima County Office of Medical Examiner.
Historically, Hess said the last time border crosser deaths were at this peak was back in 2010, the year that more than 200 remains were found and recovered.
However, over the course of the last 20-years, according to the info map that shows thousands of red dots from the Humane Borders, more than 3,000 remains have been recovered.
“A lot of the increase are those that are crossing in 2020, those who are crossing right now," said Hess.
The majority of those crossing are male. The examiner’s office said that it’s rare that remains from women and children are found- however, there have been cases. Border crossers lose their lives making the trek north due to heat exhaustion and the harsh terrains. Many spend walking the desert 10 to 15 days.
Hess said that border enforcement that’s changed drastically throughout the years has pushed people cross through even more remote areas of the Sonoran Desert.
“Part of that enforcement was trying to decrease unauthorized crossers by making it more difficult for them to cross in populated areas," said Hess.
Only resulting in more people dying out in the most beautiful landscapes. Since the trends of these deaths started to spike, the examiner’s office has made the effort to bring awareness to the crisis to the county.
Although there’s been no luck, Hess said they will continue pushing for action.
“Part of what we do is let people know what is happening, being that public health. So we can meet people who is interested in community so we could see if there’s anything we can do about it," said Hess.