US Government Makes the Desert Deadly for Migrants

The dangers of the journey into the US through the Sonoran desert is no accident. The perilous journey many migrants face was highlighted recently by the deaths of two children in US Customs and Border Patrol (CPD) custody.

Jakelin Caal Maquin, a seven-year-old girl, and Felipe Gómez Alonzo, an eight-year old boy, died after being detained by US authorities.

In the 90s, Bill Clinton introduced Prevention Through Deterrence, a border security strategy that militarized the border and forced migrants through more unforgiving terrain. Jakelin and Felipe would still be alive if it weren’t for the incredibly dangerous conditions the ‘Prevention Through Deterrence’ policy created for migrants crossing the desert.

Though the border patrol continues to deny accountability for deaths along the US-Mexico border, the metrics used to measure success under these policies include “fee increases by smugglers,” “possible increase in complaints,” and “more violence at attempted entries.” Hundreds of migrants disappear each year, when their remains are found they are frequently too decomposed to be identified.

‘Prevention Through Deterrence’ has done little if anything to deter migration, it has only increased suffering. Border patrol officials are known to destroy water stowed along migrant routes. A video, released by the humanitarian organization No More Deaths, captured video of agents emptying out water without concern for the consequences.  Within hours of the video’s release, a member of No More Deaths was arrested on charges of harboring immigrants. He faces 20 years in prison.

In these areas of the Sonoran desert, it is not possible to carry enough water, a fact that is not lost on border patrol.



Photo: “Metal border fence endless wall in the Sonoran Desert separating Mexico from the USA, as viewed from Mexico highway 2, mountains, scrub brush, Northern Mexico” by Wonderlane is licensed under CC BY 2.0