Border-crossing dangers: More migrants dying in desert

Simone Del Rosario

Photo: Video by

Border-crossing dangers: More migrants dying in desert

CREATED Sep. 18, 2013

NOGALES, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - Startling new numbers show that despite valiant efforts to show the dangers of crossing the border, hundreds are chancing it and dying. 

This year is proving deadlier than last year. As U.S. Border Patrol has more success catching crossers in urban areas, coyotes are taking the migrants farther out into rougher terrain. 

Through Wednesday, the Pima County Medical Examiner's office has recorded 148 migrant deaths in the desert in 2013. This time last year, that number was much less: 125. 

The medical examiner shows 157 deaths for all of 2012. In 2013, the number of deaths is dangerously close to that total with more than three months left in the year. 

West Cosgrove, of Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, shared a story of one Sonoran woman who hopes her son isn't one of the migrants who died. . 

"A body had been found, a cadaver, that she described as mummified," he said. "But it had her son's ID on the body. She was not able to identify the body and so she's still holding out hope that it wasn't him."

For border crossers, getting their feet on U.S. soil is just the first obstacle. It's the days-long journey through Southern Arizona's roughest terrain that claims these lives -- a journey they aren't prepared to make.

"Criminal organizations are lying to these people," Border Patrol agent Brent Cagen said. "They tell them that Phoenix or Tucson is only a few hours walk."

But the reality is that a straight shot from the Nogales border to Tucson is around 67 miles. But most coyotes are taking migrants on the road less traveled -- making the journey longer and more difficult. 

"They had no idea they were going to be mountain climbing in this process and they're wearing Mexican sandals," Cosgrove said. 

If they can't keep up, Border Patrol said they're left behind to die.