Pima County Medical Examiner field agent Trevis Hairston picks up the body of a dead illegal border crosser along State Route 86 north of Sasabe on June 25, 2010.

Dean Knuth/Arizona Daily Star

In today's story about Rev. Robin Hoover's plan to give GPS devices to illegal immigrant guides in an effort to save lives, I mentioned that fiscal year 2010 was the deadliest year in what has been a deadly decade for border deaths in Arizona with 252 bodies recovered.

I also mentioned that the rate of death — the number of bodies found per 100,000 Border Patrol apprehensions — has been on the rise for the last decade. Below, I've posted the year-by-year figures for both total deaths and the rate, based on the Arizona Daily Star's border death database. 

One thing, however, that didn't fit in the story was that the border death tally through the first seven months of fiscal year 2011 (which started on Oct. 1) is down a bit from last year.

The 87 bodies recovered through April 31 mark a 23-percent decrease than the 112 at the same time in fiscal 2010, the Star’s database shows. The figure puts 2011 on pace with past years. Here's the year-by-year total through April:

Fiscal year totals through April 31:

2004: 88

2005: 76

2006: 92

2007: 88

2008: 79

2009: 89

2010: 112

2011: 87

Of course, these yearly tallies may not actually depict the number of illegal border crossers who died in that year because bodies are often found several months after the person dies. Some are never found.

When skeletal remains are found, for instance, it can be difficult for medical examiner's to estimate when the person actually died.

An increasing number of the remains being found are skeletal remains, including more than half of the bodies this fiscal year — 48 of the 87, according to the Star’s database. That's a much higher percentage than any of the previous four years, when skeletal remains accounted for 19-27 perent of bodies recovered.

Those bodies may have been out there for weeks, months or years. In Arizona's scorching summer heat, a body can decompose in a matter of weeks, I've been told by staff at the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office.

The bottom line remains that – whether they died in 2007, 2009 or 2011 — the number of bodies and bones recovered in Arizona's desert continues at alarming levels.


Bodies recovered

The number of bodies of illegal border crossers recovered in Arizona's desert from New Mexico to Yuma County, by fiscal year:

2002: 142

2003: 177

2004: 196

2005: 233

2006: 189

2007: 234

2008: 185

2009: 215

2010: 252

2011*: 88

*Through April 31

Source: Arizona Daily Star border death database


Death rate

Known deaths per 100,000 apprehensions in Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, by fiscal year:

2004: 39

2005: 52

2006: 46

2007: 59

2008: 57

2009: 88

2010: 118

2011*: 108

*Through April 31

Source: U.S. Border Patrol, Arizona Daily Star border death database, based on Southern Arizona county medical examiner’s office information.