Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

Two activists mark the place were a migrant's remains were found in the Arizona desert.

Crosses left by border activists mark the locations where the remains of migrants who died trying to cross into the United States were discovered in the Altar Valley, Arizona. The advocacy group Humane Borders reported on Tuesday that the bodies of 43 migrants were found in the Arizona desert last month. (Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

Amid Extreme Heat, Humanitarian Group Reports Dozens of Migrant Deaths in Arizona Desert

"All of this will only grow more and more urgent and dangerous as the world grows hotter, countries in the Global South become more unstable, and more folks head north."

Julia Conley

The Tucson, Arizona-based non-profit group Humane Borders said Tuesday that amid the Southwest's extreme heatwave last month, an unusually large number of migrants' human remains were found in the desert near the U.S.-Mexico border. 
The group, which maps the recovery of human remains using data from the Pima County medical examiner and operates stations scattered throughout the borderlands where migrants can access water, said its volunteers counted 43 human bodies in June. 

"There's no doubt in my mind that the high temperatures have had a lot to do with it."
—Mike Kreyche, Humane Borders

At least 29 of the people whose remains were found were confirmed to have died last month, as Arizona officials recorded the hottest June on record. Temperatures reached above 110 degrees Fahrenheit in Phoenix, which typically has similar weather to the Sonoran Desert, where migrants make perilous journeys throughout the year after crossing the border.
The Pima County medical examiner's office listed exposure to the elements as the most common cause of death among the people whose bodies were found.
The unusually high number of migrant deaths in the desert last month follows the discovery of 127 bodies in the border region in the first half of 2021, compared to 96 bodies that were recovered in the same period last year.
According to the Associated Press, the Brooks County Sheriff's Department in southern Texas, which also experienced extreme heat last month, reported 36 migrant deaths in the first five months of this year, surpassing the total number found in 2020.
"There's no doubt in my mind that the high temperatures have had a lot to do with it," Mike Kreyche, Humane Borders' mapping coordinator, told the AP last December when the newswire reported that 214 bodies were documented by the group for the year—a 10-year record which may be broken again this year.
At the online magazine Atmos, Yessenia Funes wrote on Monday about how the historic heat wave last month made an already treacherous journey more dangerous for migrants—and how the trend is likely to continue.
Funes wrote that along the U.S.-Mexico border since last October, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) "has conducted nearly 7,000 rescues—35% more than its last fiscal year," yet appears to have made "no clear plans" for avoiding mass casualties in the desert as the climate crisis worsens.
"Helping those in distress is good, but preventing them from entering such dangerous situations would be better," wrote Funes. "At the moment, the agency’s only attempt to stop folks from migrating is through a militarized border and, well, telling them not to."
"What we must remember is that none of this is necessary. People shouldn’t have to brave extreme desert climates to reach the United States," she added. "We should be able to offer them safe and legal pathways to find the help they seek. The fact that the U.S. doesn't is a choice our leaders make."
On social media, Funes noted that her parents trekked across the desert in the Southwest four decades ago.
"It was treacherous then—but the Earth is a lot hotter now in the 1980s," Funes wrote. "And the border is a lot more militarized, too, so migrants are taking riskier routes to avoid border patrol."
"All of this will only grow more and more urgent and dangerous as the world grows hotter, countries in the Global South become more unstable, and more folks head north," Funes said.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Al Jazeera Preparing ICC 'War Crimes' Case Against Israel for Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh

"Targeting war correspondents, or journalists working in war zones or occupied territories by killing or physically assaulting them, is a war crime," the network says.

Andrea Germanos ·

Rapid Response Protests Planned to Stop Biden From 'Screwing Up' Student Debt Relief

"$10K, no way," said organizers. "Don't go small, cancel it all!"

Julia Conley ·

G7 Fossil Fuel Funding Pledge a 'Massive Win,' Say Climate Groups

Campaigners say "promises should now urgently be turned into action."

Jake Johnson ·

'This Is Bullsh*t': Instead of Canceling, Abbott Will Deliver Video Speech to NRA

Headlines suggested the Texas governor was "skipping" the group's convention, but in fact he will give a prerecorded address just days after the Uvalde massacre that left 19 children dead.

Jake Johnson ·

Texas Democrat Demands Federal Probe of Police Response to Uvalde Shooting

"State officials have provided conflicting accounts that are at odds with those provided by witnesses," said U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo