Immigration & Labor

Dying To Get Back

Illegal border crossings have plummeted in recent years. But migrant deaths are on the rise.
The unidentified bodies of migrants in the Pima County, Arizona, morgue.

On September 30, 2014, this segment won a News & Documentary Emmy Award.

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This broadcast is the third in a series; see Part 1 and Part 2.

While the number of illegal crossings at the border has plummeted dramatically — roughly half the number than during peak years — just as many people are dying. Meaning for those coming into the country illegally, it is now more deadly, more lethal, than at any time in recent U.S. immigration history.

  • Abuse of Force at the Border

    Read more from our award-winning series “Abuse of Force at the Border,” which exposes excessive use of force by U.S. Border Patrol agents. The series culminated in a review of force by Customs and Border Protection and agency-wide reforms.

For years the age of those dying has been constant — they have been young — but today, these statistics are changing. According to two recent studies, what may be compelling older immigrants to risk death in the desert is this: more and more often, they are mothers and fathers who have long had homes in the United States, with American children who depend on them.

Map of border deaths


This segment was produced in partnership with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, now known as Type Investigations.

About the reporter

John Carlos Frey

John Carlos Frey

John Carlos Frey is an investigative reporter and documentary filmmaker based in Los Angeles.


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