EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- The number of migrants dying in the desert around this region is up almost double from last year, according to official figures from Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
Amidst the record-breaking temperatures registered this summer, El Paso border authorities have reported more rescues and more deaths by dehydration and heat strokes than ever before.
Since 1998, the number of migrants dying of these causes have never surpassed 30, until this year, according to official statistics.
In the El Paso sector alone, U.S. Border Patrol agents have rescued 439 migrants and reported 130 deaths, 54 of which were heat related. That's according to new Border Patrol data.
“The desert itself presents another danger, and [then] you bring in extreme heat like... we were seeing here in El Paso a few weeks back, and so what happened is that we started encountering bodies of migrants that had passed to the heat," Border Patrol spokesperson Fidel Baca told ABC-7.
Migrants crossing the border from Ciudad Juárez are often already suffering from dehydration and bad nutrition, caused by the treacherous journey north.
The trek from the Anapra area in Ciudad Juarez to populated areas in the U.S. is only 1.5 miles, but can take several hours. Migrants looking to avoid detection are also forced to hide from border agents, often causing the journey to last even longer.
Others are kept in rudimentary stash houses in Ciudad Juárez by smugglers, according to authorities and migrants interviewed by ABC-7. The rough conditions can lead to detrimental health effects.
“We didn’t have enough water (in a Juárez stash house) and we had to run for a while after we crossed,” a migrant who didn’t want to share his name told ABC-7 last month.
“We paid 40,000 pesos (roughly $2,000) just to be allowed to get across, and we bought some water to make it through,” the man said, visibly exhausted. The man had just been picked up by agents after hours in the desert.
The other people with him, including three older women, also looked exhausted and overheated. They said they waited until nighttime to avoid the heat, but even so, the temperatures were still above 100 degrees.
Not all migrants are lucky enough to survive the journey, however. During the second week of August, a couple of migrants crossing together were found dehydrated in the desert at the Santa Teresa area. They had been running with no water for several hours in temperatures above 110 degrees. There was no shade and they were wearing heavy clothes, authorities said.
“What we do is that typically agents have big packs of water bottles that they bring with them and that they use to give them to the people as typically the first thing that comes out of their mouth when they see us is water,” Baca said.
The number of migrants crossing through this region decreased significantly after the lifting of Title 42, a pandemic-era measure that allowed officials to return most migrants back to Mexico. Still, this year's numbers are higher than previous year's.
The migrant encounters reached an average of 2,700 migrants at the start of fiscal year 2023, while after the end of Title 42 the numbers remained at around 800, according to statistics by the U.S. Border Patrol.
Luis Chaparro is ABC-7's reporter for the Puente News Collaborative, a partnership among local media outlets bringing in-depth border reporting to the Borderland.