Migrant deaths at southern border soar to new high under Biden

EXCLUSIVE — Migrant deaths at the U.S.-Mexico border have reached a new all-time high, with more bodies recovered over the past nine months than any full year in recorded history.

Since the start of the federal government’s 2022 fiscal year last October, authorities have found 609 bodies on the U.S. side of the southern border, according to internal U.S. Customs and Border Protection data obtained by the Washington Examiner and confirmed by three federal law enforcement officials.

The 609 figure is already higher than the 566 record set in all of 2021, which was the previous highest level, according to data detailed in CBP documents shared internally last week. CBP oversees the Border Patrol, whose 19,500 agents work between the land ports of entry.

“It seems like a daily occurrence people are dying,” a senior Border Patrol official said.

“The way it’s going, we could hit 700 pretty soon,” a second senior Border Patrol official said.


This year’s current total is more than double the 300 bodies recovered in 2019 and 247 in 2020, publicly available government data show.

The new revelation underscores the human toll of the Biden administration’s border crisis — with more people apprehended crossing into the United States illegally in recent months than any other time in the Border Patrol’s centurylong existence.

“Any needless death at the US-Mexico border is tragic. It is time we fix our broken immigration system — but any reform efforts MUST begin with securing our borders,” said Rep. Mayra Flores (R-TX), who won a special election in June in a highly competitive border district. “Just five days ago, Secretary Mayorkas said the border is ‘secure,’ to which I say this is not only intellectually dishonest but also an outright lie.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas said the Biden administration’s choice to consider imposing Title 42, a pandemic public health policy that allows some migrants who illegally enter the country to be immediately turned back, has played a role in the rise in deaths.

“It is past time for this administration and Congress to abandon deadly border policies, including Title 42, which has made things worse,” said Shaw Drake, policy counsel and staff attorney at the ACLU of Texas, in a statement. “U.S. border policy is designed to have deadly outcomes. So long as a deterrence only, punishment-based approach to border policy dominates and those seeking safety at our border are turned away, tragic deaths will continue to mount.”

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has insisted for 18 months that the government is creating a better and safer immigration system to handle the never-before-seen volume of people coming across from Mexico. The number of illegal immigration attempts jumped the month after President Joe Biden moved into the White House in January 2021 in response to his relaxing immigration enforcement, as well as push factors, including severe economic decline across Latin America resulting from the pandemic.

But the number of people apprehended at the southern border under Biden, more than 3 million people in a year and a half, shows no sign of returning to normal, leaving the revolving door at the border as the new norm.

The South Texas area known as the Rio Grande Valley reported 173 bodies found, more than any other of the nine regions that the Border Patrol divides the 2,000-mile southern border by. The Del Rio region of Texas followed with 154 bodies; 72 in Tucson, Arizona; and 64 in Laredo, Texas.

“Our families and communities in the RGV are paying for the cost of this administration’s self-inflicted humanitarian and security crisis. I’ve heard firsthand horror stories on many occasions, and it breaks my heart that Washington, DC treats this like a political issue and not what it really is — life and death,” Flores said in a statement to the Washington Examiner. “We need leadership, we need action, and we need it now.”

The rise in deaths and larger border issues could spell additional problems for Democrats in the November midterm elections.

Immigrant advocacy group No More Deaths did not respond to requests for comment, but advocacy groups have said in the past that the increase in border wall under the Trump administration has forced migrants to cross in more remote areas. While some migrants cross the border and surrender to police, others do not want to get caught and try to avoid detection.

Ranchers and farmers who live and work on extremely remote and expansive plots of land often make the discoveries of recently or long-deceased migrants, as well as Border Patrol agents. Bodies are reported to local, state, or federal authorities, which are added to the federal government’s total number. The number of bodies found does not take into account how many have died or been killed whose whereabouts are unknown.

CBP declined to fulfill a Washington Examiner request last week for the number of migrant deaths this year, stating that the data were not available because it had recently employed a new methodology for tracking it. However, the internal documents shared with the Washington Examiner by employees outside of the public affairs office show that border officials were presented with the latest numbers last week.

Additionally, CBP did not respond to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted last week or an additional request Monday for comment about why it claimed the data were unavailable.

Images of migrant deaths under former President Donald Trump stoked national outrage, in particular among Democrats, but the deaths since Biden took office have largely gone unreported.

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Anna Giaritelli