NEW REPORT: “Left To Die” Finds that Border Patrol Routinely Ignores and Mishandles Backcountry Emergencies

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NEW REPORT: “Left To Die” finds that Border Patrol routinely ignores and mishandles backcountry emergencies, fueling a crisis of death and disappearance
In-depth analysis of borderlands search and rescue documents how Border Patrol is the sole responder for migrants in distress but did not respond in 40% of cases.

Tucson, AZ— A report released today by southern Arizona organizations No More Deaths and La Coalición de Derechos Humanos finds that Border Patrol systematically ignores and mishandles search and rescue emergencies in the borderlands, and obstructs family and humanitarian efforts to save lives. The report— Left to Die: Border Patrol, Search and Rescue, and the Crisis of Disappearance— is the latest installment of the groups’ three-part series, Disappeared: How US Border Enforcement Agencies are Fueling a Missing Persons Crisis.

The report’s primary quantitative analysis draws on emergency cases received in 2015-2016 by a 24-hour Missing Migrant Crisis Line operated by La Coalición de Derechos Humanos. The report also relies on qualitative analysis of thousands of emergency 911 calls subsequently transferred to the Border Patrol. In 63% of all distress calls referred to Border Patrol by crisis line volunteers, the agency did not conduct any confirmed search or rescue mobilization whatsoever. This includes 40% of cases where Border Patrol directly refused to take any measures in response to a life-or-death emergency. When Border Patrol did respond, their searches were severely diminished in time and resources when compared to searches for US citizens.

Widespread negligence and a discriminatory emergency response system has prompted families and community groups to search for missing loved ones on their own. The report catalogues the routine manner with which Border Patrols obstructs and interferes with these family and community efforts through criminalization, harassment and refusal to share crucial information. In 25% of the cases analyzed, Border Patrol obstructed humanitarian efforts to locate a missing person. 

Crucially, the report also finds that Border Patrol is more than twice as likely to cause someone to go missing through dangerous enforcement tactics than they are to respond to a request for emergency assistance. “Border Patrol claiming to rescue someone is like a ship captain throwing 100 people overboard, tossing in a couple life jackets, then holding a press conference when they save one person’s life” said No More Deaths Abuse Documentation coordinator Parker Deighan “Border Patrol will never be able to be the adequate responder in a crisis of their own making.”

In 2020 alone, the remains of 227 people have been recovered in the borderlands of southern Arizona—the highest of any year on record.

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