An Arizona advocacy group says tens of thousands of people attempting to cross the US-Mexico border illegally since the 1990s have died or disappeared because the US Border Patrol uses the desert as a "weapon," the Guardian reports. In a report issued Wednesday, No More Deaths says 1,200 migrants were reported missing while trying to cross the border just last year. Less than a third of them were found alive, according to the Tucson Sentinel. The group calls it "one of the great historical crimes of our day" and describes the desert around the Texas and Arizona borders as a "vast graveyard of the missing." “Mass death and disappearance are the inevitable outcomes of a border enforcement plan that uses the wilderness as a weapon," the Guardian quotes the report as saying.
One of the problems, according to No More Deaths, is the Border Patrol's tactic of chasing people crossing the border illegally into the desert. They get injured, lost, or lose their supplies, the group states. Democracy Now reports one man fell off a cliff and died while being chased by Border Patrol agents at night. "It's not enough for Border Patrol agents to say that they're just doing their job," the Sentinel quotes one woman as saying. "It's their job that often leads to these deaths." No More Deaths also takes issue with the policy, enacted in the 1990s, of heavily fortifying urban border crossings as a means of sending migrants into more hostile terrain. In response to the report, US Customs and Border Protection says it "values human life" and wants to educate people about the dangers of illegal border crossings. (Read more Border Patrol stories.)