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More Immigrants Dying at Arizona’s Harshest Border Crossing

Illegal immigration is down and Department of Homeland Security officials say the Arizona-Mexico border is more secure than ever. But many people still attempt to cross, and in Pima County, Ariz., the number that die doing so may reach record highs this year, the Los Angeles Times reported today.

Law enforcement recovered remains of 170 migrants in that county this year, meaning the death toll along the border could overtake Pima County’s 2007 record of 218 border-crosser deaths. The county typically has the highest number of fatalities, and illegal migrants are often funneled to its harsh terrain by tougher enforcement and barriers elsewhere. “We’re kind of looking at a record-breaking year this year,” Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Eric Peters told the LA Times.

Crossing the border is increasingly difficult, but with family members and hope for better economic opportunities in the U.S., that doesn’t deter all migrants:

Sofia Gomez, executive director of Humane Borders, said she recently met a woman in Sonora, Mexico, who said that in the 1990s, the journey to the U.S. took hours. Now it’s several days.

Gomez asked the woman if she would cross again.

“She just smiled,” Gomez said. “I could tell right away that she basically didn’t think she had a choice.”

The ACLU and immigrants rights groups have called border crossing deaths a humanitarian crisis, prompting a debate over how much aid should be given to those crossing the border illegally. The deaths are often heat-related, prompting some human rights groups to place water bottles in the desert. But as The Nation reported this month, not everyone welcomes those efforts: Humanitarian volunteers who leave water on migrant trails have been arrested on littering charges, while Minutemen and Border Patrol guards sometimes drain the bottles and leave them in the desert.

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