Migrants queue near the border wall
Representational image Photo by: Reuters/Jose Luis Gonzalez

The U.S. government has kicked off a campaign seeking to discourage migrants from taking a specific, perilous route through New Mexico and Texas that is known as "the graveyard," according to Border Report.

149 migrants died in this area, which encompasses far west Texas and southern New Mexico, in fiscal year 2023. 34 more have lost their lives since October 1, when fiscal year 2024 started. 90% of all fatalities took place in New Mexico.

In this context, federal authorities have partnered with local officials and Mexican diplomats with this purpose. The campaign, called "No se arriesgue" (Don't risk it) is running public service announcements online and engaging the Spanish-speaking community.

"This site symbolizes the struggle of thousands of migrants who are exploited by transnational criminal organizations and smuggled across this treacherous terrain with complete disregard for their safety," said El Paso Sector Border Patrol Chief Agent Anthony "Scott" Good.

"The migrants are not properly informed about dangers. The steep terrain, the jagged cliffs increase the risk of injury. A simple twist of an ankle can easily turn critical," he added. To cross into the U.S., migrants have to go through Mount Cristo Rey, which can be extremely difficult for many who are already in weak health as a result of their lengthy journey to the border.

"Migrant testimonies reveal they were dehydrated before even beginning their trip because ruthless smugglers often deprive them of adequate food and water for days," said Good.

As well as the campaign, Border Patrol is trying to reduce fatalities by placing emergency beacons in the desert, which include geolocators and instructions to deal 911 when lost. Smugglers, however, have been telling migrants not to contact authorities because they will be deported, Border Report detailed.

A recent report claims the amount of fatalities in the area could be higher. Arizona-based No More Deaths published research showing two to four times as many deaths as those reported by the government in West Texas and Southern New Mexico over several years (2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020).

Among the main causes of death were dehydration or hypothermia (depending on the season), falls from mountains or the border wall, drownings, being struck by motor vehicles and injuries in the context of law-enforcement chases. This last category accounts for at least 35 deaths in the region, the report added.

No More Deaths said it seeks to shed light on the disparity to achieve more transparency and accountability from government agencies. CBP, on its end, told Border Report that it follows Congressional reporting requirements in its task. And noticed that despite the gaps between 2016 and 2022 it documented more deaths than the organization in 2022 (149 compared to 139). The agency also said that last fiscal year it rescued 600 injured or dehydrated migrants and is up to almost 300 this year.

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