Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Truth About Migrant Deaths And The Border Patrol

I used to work for @CBP as a public affairs specialist (2005-2012), rebranded, won IABC Silver Inkwell Award, and was managing editor for agency magazine "Frontline" for some time. This is my name in the first edition of the magazine in Spring 2008 …

Like everyone else I was very upset to see a story in the news about a father and daughter who died trying to cross into the United States after a frustrating wait. Something seemed off about this story however and so I kept reading.What follows are nonpartisan facts/analysis.

CBP's mission is to protect the borders at and between the ports of entry. ICE's job is to remove people from the United States who are not legally allowed to be here. …

We had border fencing more than a decade ago, it was controversial more than a decade ago, and so CBP called itself a "border management" agency to help alleviate some of those concerns.

The job of a Border Patrol agent is to keep illegal crossers out. It is not their job to let people in because the country they are coming from is uninhabitable.

Border Patrol agents routinely stop criminals.

The National Guard has been helping to put up barriers on the southern border for more than a decade.

Illegal cross-border traffic is a "risk to society."

A 2006 @USGAO report said the Border Patrol needed oversight because "Border-Crossing Deaths Have Doubled" 1995-2005 (over 1985-1995). The GAO is nonpartisan. …

Here is a Congressional Research Service report from 2010 on the role of the U.S. Border Patrol with respect to U.S. border security. …

Here is a visualization from the report (p. 26) of the data. You can see the downward trend in the first decade, followed by the upward trend in the second.

The discovery of the dead father and daughter several days ago is by no means the first, as you can see from the report. Undocumented migrants suffer and die daily.

The report notes the difficulty of collecting data due to the multiple hands in the pot. (p. 25)

The report notes that "border crossings have become more hazardous since the (Border Patrol) 'Prevention through Deterrence' policy went into effect in 1995, resulting in an increase in illegal migrant deaths along the Southwest border." The Border Patrol took steps here--

Because the mortality rate per apprehension significantly rose in a decade.

"From 1.6 deaths per 10,000 apprehensions in FY1999 to 7.6 deaths per 10,000 apprehensions in FY2009."

Remember, this is 2010: "The Border Patrol has taken several steps to address this problem in recent years, including the previously discussed Border Safety Initiative and the specialized BORSTAR search and rescue teams."

These agents help people in distress.

Efforts continued & were written about in the agency's publication at least as far as June 2016. …

"The U.S. Border Patrol and its partners are once again marshaling resources this summer to rescue migrants who succumb to the Southwest's brutal deserts"

How many undocumented migrants die and why do they die? per the June 2016 article:

"Border Patrol statistics vary, but upwards of 300 illegal immigrants die in the Southwest each year before completing their long, arduous and dangerous trek"

"—and those numbers are just those who perish after entering the U.S. During fiscal year 2015, 240 died; 2014, 308; and in 2013, 445."

"Nature takes its toll, but so do the smugglers with little regard for life and safety. Smugglers often abandon migrants when they can’t keep pace. Robbery, violence, torture, rape, kidnapping, slavery and even murder by human trafficking rings are among the risks"--

"--during their up to 1,600-mile journey from Central America through Mexico to the U.S. border."

"Many migrants, including unaccompanied children, perished well before reaching the U.S. riding atop freight trains for days to avoid Mexican checkpoints. Fatigued, they fall off the car while asleep, explained Manuel Padilla, Rio Grande Valley chief patrol agent."

The 2010 CRS report noted that Border Patrol agents face violence in their assigned border duties. …

2011 Congressional testimony from the Border Patrol about the ways the U.S. government tries to prevent these tragedies. …

So the "migrant death border crisis," as Time magazine calls it, is not new.
But the cause is not the United States. …

"it is easier to blame the gringos,but what are the governments of Central America doing to solve this humanitarian crisis?"
- comment on the original story concerning the death of Salvadoran migrant Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez & his daughter Valeria …

Several odd things about this story, first reported here.

How did a photojournalist happen to be present?
If the bodies were missing overnight, why weren't they bloated?
Why are the photos of the bodies lacking anyone around them? …

These are the 3 photos from the article for reference.

Julia Le Duc is the photojournalist who took the photos. In 2014 Reporters Without Borders noted that she has been the target of threats. …

"MEXICO - Endangered Internet
Online coverage of drug-trafficking under threat in Tamaulipas
4 August 2014"

"The authorities in Mexico’s northeastern border state of Tamaulipas are said to (be) behind smear campaigns and acts of intimidation targeting journalists and bloggers in this region."

"Julia Le Duc, a reporter for the news website La Jornada, is also one of the targets of the same online smear campaign by the same users."

This kind of headline is an immediate tearjerker and rightfully so. …

But we need to do some critical thinking, too. The @guardian published an interview with the photojournalist Julia Le Duc. …

"Julia Le Duc is a reporter for La Jornada in Matamoros, the Mexican city directly across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas. Her shocking photographs...cast a fresh spotlight on the migration crisis at America’s southern border."

"Here she describes how the images came into being."

"On Sunday there was an emergency call about a woman who was in a desperate way down by the river. We heard the report and went down to the river where she was shouting and screaming that the current had taken her daughter." -- but she doesn't photograph this.

"They’d arrived here earlier that morning and they went straight to the [international] bridge to ask about applying for asylum, but they were told the American migration office was closed because it was a weekend...lots of other people in the line ahead of them."

"A few months ago there were about 1,800 people waiting in Matamoros for an asylum interview. It’s gone down to about 300 now" --> isn't that good?

"So the family were walking back from the bridge when [Martínez] stopped and looked at the river – and said 'Here’s where we cross'”. -- so the father decided not to wait at all.

"He crossed first with the little girl and he left her on the American side. Then he turned back to get his wife, but the girl went into the water after him. When he went to save her, the current took them both." -- this is the story I have seen.

"Someone called the rescue services...and the search went on until after 11pm, but even with boats and lamps they couldn’t find them." -- So this happened the previous day? They were missing for an entire day, not an hour?

"The next morning, they continued in the light of day and, at about 10.15 in the morning, the firemen found the two bodies. That’s when I took the pictures, before the scene was taped off." -- How long were they in? The child is clearly wearing a diaper; it looks fresh.

"I’ve been a crime reporter for many years, and I’ve seen a lot of bodies – and a lot of drownings. The Río Bravo [Rio Grande] is a very strong river: you think it’s just shallow, but there are lots of currents and whirlpools." -- this doesn't look like people caught in that.

And again, why did she take so few pictures? There is nothing around the victims at all. There is nothing of the officials near the victims, either.

"You get numb to it, but when you see something like this it re-sensitizes you. You could see that the father had put her inside his T-shirt so the current wouldn’t pull her away."

-- Clearly we see this. But the question is, why do we see so little else?
By Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author's own. Public domain.