Im­mi­grant deaths in Ari­zona desert soar­ing, med­i­cal ex­am­iner warns

Austin American-Statesman - - SATURDAYBRIEFING -

PHOENIX — The num­ber of deaths among il­le­gal im­mi­grants cross­ing the Ari­zona desert from Mex­ico is soar­ing so high this month that the med­i­cal ex­am­iner’s of­fice that han­dles the bod­ies is us­ing a re­frig­er­ated truck to store some of them, the chief ex­am­iner said Fri­day.

The bod­ies of 40 il­le­gal im­mi­grants have been brought to the of­fice of Dr. Bruce Parks, the Pima County med­i­cal ex­am­iner, since July 1. At that rate, Parks said, the deaths could top the 68 in July 2005, a sin­gle-month record since his of­fice be­gan track­ing them in 2000.

“Right now, at the half­way point of the month, to have so many is just a very bad sign,” he said. “It’s def­i­nitely on course to per­haps be the dead­li­est month of all time.”

From Jan. 1 to July 15, the of­fice has re­ceived the bod­ies of 134 il­le­gal im­mi­grants, up from 93 at the same time last year and 102 in 2008. In 2007, when the of­fice recorded the high­est an­nual deaths of il­le­gal im­mi­grants, 140 bod­ies had ar­rived through July 15.

Parks said his of­fice, which han­dles im­mi­grant bod­ies from three coun­ties, is stor­ing roughly 250 and had to start us­ing a re­frig­er­ated truck this month.

He said many of the bod­ies seem to be com­ing from the desert south­west of Tuc­son, where it tends to be hot­ter than east­ern parts of the border or the Tuc­son metro area.

Au­thor­i­ties think the high num­ber of deaths is prob­a­bly be­cause of above-av­er­age and un­re­lent­ing heat in south­ern Ari­zona this month and on­go­ing tighter border se­cu­rity, which pushes im­mi­grants to more re­mote, rugged and dan­ger­ous ter­rain.

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