Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Immigrant deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border
According to the US Border Patrol, 1,954 people died crossing the US/Mexico border between the years 1998-2004, from all causes. In 2004, 325 persons are reported to have died. The leading causes of death are heat stroke, dehydration, and hypothermia. Significant numbers of illegal immigrants also die in car accidents and other accidental causes.
In addition to the natural causes, there are suspicions that some immigrant deaths are intentionally caused.
Historically speaking, the subject of immigrant killings in the United States date back to at least the 1850s, the first such incident possibly being the Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857, when 120 immigrants from Arkansas were shot down in Utah.
Since the middle 1990s, Border Patrol police in the United States have been dealing with the violent deaths of Illegal immigrants, particularly in the state of Arizona. The number of deaths of immigrants in the United States-Mexico border has been increasing on a regular, yearly basis since the middle 1990s, garnering the attention of news media and law enforcement alike. Usually, American citizens are prime suspects of committing these crimes, although it can be hard to identify the killer or killers.
The killings have caused tension between the United States and other countries, particularly Mexico, where a majority of immigrants that enter the United States through the Southwestern borders come from. General consulates across the Southwest United States, in particular those of hispanic countries, have condemned the violent deaths of immigrants across the border.
It is often very hard for the police to identify the suspects, because many groups might be involved. Authorities think that most of the violent deaths have been orchestrated either by local farmers or by immigrant smugglers, known as coyotes. The Coyotes, a term used to describe people who drive immigrants into the United States, are infamous for the way in which they treat their clients, who are also often deemed as human cargo. Cases of rape and beatings by coyotes have been reported by immigrants. The number of times this has happened, however, is hard to tell because so many immigrants are afraid they would be deported if they go to the police for help. Because of the violent nature of most coyotes, they are among the first groups of people that the police points at when they find bodies of immigrants who have apparently been murdered across the American border.
It is illegal to kill anyone in the United States as long as the victim is not threatening someone's life, even in a situation when a person is invading a private home. The Border Patrol in Arizona has been clear in asking citizens to call the police if immigrants invade their property and not to take the law into their own hands.
Many farmers in South Arizona have expressed that they would shoot someone, even if unarmed, if they tresspass their property. Some farmers have been arrested and accused of killing immigrants. Not all farmers think that violence should be used, however, but some call themselves vigilantes and are known for carrying guns and rifles to protect their land from invaders by shooting.
Outside vigilantes and hate groups
In 2000, a group that named themselves the Neighborhood Watch Ranch sent a letter to many houses across the United States, encouraging other Americans to go to Arizona and "have some fun under the sun", shooting immigrants.
The Ku Klux Klan has been mentioned in connection with these deaths. Infamous for killing members of non White races, the Ku Klux Klan has not acknowledged or denied involvement in killings of immigrants near the United States-Mexico border.
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