Valdez: The serial killer on Arizona's border that everyone ignores


The Border Patrol reports that the total number of apprehensions of undocumented border crossers in Arizona declined from 376,302 in fiscal year 2002 to 70,074 in fiscal 2015.

That’s a decrease of more than 81 percent.

But the number of deaths along the Arizona-Mexico border – as reported by the Pima County Medical Examiner – went from 143 in fiscal 2002 to 135 in 2015.

That’s a 6 percent decrease.

The 2015 death count is up from 129 in 2014, but down from the peak year of 223 in 2010, according to Pima County’s medical examiner, who handles the entire border region except Yuma County.

It’s an ongoing issue for us,” says Pima County’s chief medical examiner Dr. Gregory Hess. His office has handled the remains of nearly 2,500 migrants since 2001.

Border Patrol reports finding the remains of 45 people in the Yuma and Tucson sectors so far this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1. Last fiscal year, Border Patrol agents reported 68 deaths -- about half the total handled by Hess’ office.

That’s because Border Patrol only reports remains agents directly encounter. This excludes bodies found by local law enforcement officers, hikers, hunters, humanitarian groups or others, says Hess. As a result, his numbers are higher and present a more accurate picture of what’s going on (a graphic below charts the deaths since 2002).

Border policies have made it more likely that someone will die crossing the border today than in years past. Those dangerous policies also keep the Border Patrol juggling dual roles as cops and rescuers.

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