August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Monday, March 15, 2010

Arizona Sonora Border: 85 Human Beings Dead

March 15, 2010
Contact: Kat Rodriguez: 520.770.1373

Arizona Recovered Remains Reach 85, a 60% Increase From Last Year
By Derechos Humanos
Photo: International Migrant Quilt Project/Photo Brenda Norrell
Arizona -- The number of human remains recovered on the Arizona-Sonora border since October , 2009 has reached 85, reports the Tucson-based Coalición de Derechos Humanos. The data is comprised of medical examiner reports from Pima, Yuma, and Cochise counties, and is an attempt to reflect more accurately the human cost of failed U.S. border and immigration policies.

The count to date includes fifty-four (54) males, ten (10) females, and twenty-one (21) individuals of unknown gender. The identities of approximately sixty-five (65) of the recovered individuals remain unknown, which is approximately 76% of the total recovered thus far this fiscal year. This number is a 60.3% increase from last year, when the total of recovered remains as of February 28, 2009 was fifty-three (53). Approximately twenty-five (25), or 28.3% of the remains were skeletal, and sixty-five (65), or 76.4% remain unidentified.

The continued increase in the recovery of skeletal remains indicates that more and more individuals are being funneled into more isolated and desolate terrain of the Arizona-Sonora border. This "Funnel Effect," which has been documented by the Binational Migration Institute*, has shown that the practice of sealing traditional crossing points ultimately pushes migration into the deadliest areas. The extent of this crisis is not known as the numbers of human remains recovered in neighboring states are not available.

"The cold, along with the continued effects of the Funnel Effect, has resulted in a horrifically high number of skeletal remains and deaths due to exposure and hypothermia." says Kat Rodriguez, Coordinator of Derechos Humanos. "We also continue to see the tragic trend of the recovery of remains of unknown gender, which make up about 24.7% of the numbers this year. This means that approximately one in four individuals recovered are of unknown gender, making identification all the more difficult."

'Unknown gender' indicates that not enough of a body was recovered to determine gender, and without DNA, which is costly, it is impossible to know even this basic information about the individual, making identification and return to their families even more difficult. The dramatic increase in these unknown gender cases are a troubling indicator of what might be to come as people are pushed out into more and more isolated areas, making rescue and detection less likely and the likelihood of death more certain. It is unknown how many remains are currently near the border but have not yet been discovered.

"The continued appalling issue of human remains being recovered on the Arizona-Sonora border should be a measure we use when offered "comprehensive immigration reform"" continues Rodriguez. "We must strengthen our resolve to reject any proposal of reform that does not immediately and meaningfully address the issue of border deaths, and does not ensure dignity and respect for the human rights of all migrant and immigrant communities."
* The complete BMI study, The "Funnel Effect" & Recovered Bodies of Unauthorized Migrants Processed by the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner, 1990-2005, is available on the Derechos Humanos website:
The complete list of recovered remains is available on the Coalición de Derechos Humanos website: This information is available to anyone who requests it from us and is used by our organization to further raise awareness of the human rights crisis we are facing on our borders.
Coalición de Derechos Humanos
P.O. Box 1286 Tucson, AZ 85702
Tel: 520.770.1373
Fax: 520.770.7455

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