Illegal Immigrant Deaths Soar as Heat Sets In

By Charlotte Cuthbertson
Charlotte Cuthbertson
Charlotte Cuthbertson
Senior Reporter
Charlotte Cuthbertson is a senior reporter with The Epoch Times who primarily covers border security and the opioid crisis.
July 11, 2021 Updated: July 12, 2021

U.S. Border Patrol and sheriff’s departments are recording high numbers of illegal immigrant deaths as the summer heat kicks in.

In June, 109 bodies were recovered by Border Patrol, up from 61 in May, according to preliminary numbers obtained by Jaeson Jones, host of “Tripwires & Triggers,” from Customs and Border Protection (CBP). That brings the total for fiscal 2021 to 321 bodies recovered by Border Patrol, with three months to go.

The majority of deaths over the summer months are due to dehydration and hyperthermia as illegal immigrants traverse desert and remote ranchland to avoid Border Patrol checkpoints. Water is scarce, it’s not hard to get lost, and smugglers will leave illegal immigrants behind if they’re slow or injured.

“To avoid death or injury from severe dehydration, a person walking across the landscape in the heat of summer must consume no less than two gallons of water per day,” CBP stated on July 1. “The average person cannot carry sufficient water to avoid life-threatening dehydration over the course of several days in the brush.”

The Rio Grande Valley sector in south Texas and Arizona’s Tucson sector account for most of the summer deaths, which generally spike in tandem with illegal crossing numbers. Over the past 20 years, a high of 492 deaths was recorded by CBP in fiscal year 2005, and a low of 251 deaths in 2015.

Epoch Times Photo
An emergency beacon in the desert near the U.S.-Mexico border in Yuma, Ariz., on May 25, 2018. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

Deputy Sheriff Don White’s primary job in Brooks County, Texas, is to find the deceased. That county is about 70 miles north of the U.S.–Mexico border, but it’s also where many bodies turn up.

The only way to skirt the Border Patrol checkpoint on U.S. Route 281 is to be dropped off south of it, walk north on private ranchland, sometimes for days, and then get picked up again. The next destination is usually Houston.

In June, White recorded the recovery of 15 bodies. So far this year, the county has found 52, a dramatic increase over 2020, when 34 bodies were recovered over the whole year.

“June was a cool month with lots of rain,” White told The Epoch Times on July 11. “July and August will be the worst for heat, and it’s quite possible that the 52 recoveries we have so far may dramatically increase.”

White, who operates through his nonprofit, Remote Wildlands Search and Recovery, said the body count would be “considerably higher than it is now” if it wasn’t for Border Patrol EMTs’ quick response to 911 calls.

Sheriff Leon Wilmot of Yuma, Arizona, blames the border crisis on Homeland Security Secretary Alejandra Mayorkas for not enforcing immigration law.

“Right now, we have had 12 people die in our desert on Mayorkas’s watch,” Wilmot told The Epoch Times on July 11. “He was warned by me personally what was going to happen, and their deaths are on his shoulders.”

Aside from the deaths, CBP is rescuing thousands of illegal aliens who are in distress.

In May, CBP conducted 7,084 rescues along the border. The agency has rescued 35 percent more illegal aliens so far this fiscal year than in all of fiscal 2020.

From October to May, Border Patrol apprehended almost 1 million illegal aliens, according to CBP.

Correction: The article was corrected to say “hyperthermia.” The Epoch Times regrets the error. 

Charlotte Cuthbertson
Charlotte Cuthbertson
Senior Reporter
Charlotte Cuthbertson is a senior reporter with The Epoch Times who primarily covers border security and the opioid crisis.