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U.S. Border Patrol policy has led to hundreds of deaths and disappearances, a new report found

A shocking new report on the failures and negligence of the U.S. Border Patrol details how the agency, which seemingly bills itself as "humanitarian," may actually be responsible for allowing hundreds of people to go missing. The report, titled "Left to Die: Border Patrol, Search and Rescue, and the Crisis of Disappearance" and co-authored by Arizona-based organizations No More Deaths (NMD) and La Coalición de Derechos Humanos, analyzed more than 2,100 911 calls that were transferred from the Pima County Sheriff's Department to Border Patrol from 2016-2018, as well as more than 400 emergency cases recorded by a community-based crisis line. According to the report, Border Patrol systematically funnels migrants into dangerous areas and refuses to search for them after they go missing.

"We find that letting people to die in the middle of desert is consistent with Border Patrol’s strategy in enforcing the border through the method of 'deterrence through death,'" NMD member Parker Deighan told KOLD News, making reference to the agency's "Prevention Through Deterrence" strategy. Deighan said that, based on NMD's data analysis, Border Patrol failed to respond to 40 percent of search and rescue requests.

The report also highlights a lack of resources deployed for Border Patrol search and rescue efforts compared with those deployed for lost and/or distressed U.S. citizens. The organizations determined that, in 37 percent of the cases for which Border Patrol did conduct search and rescue operations, "the quality and scope of the agency’s efforts were seriously diminished when compared with government search and rescue standards for cases involving US citizens." Unsurprisingly, there is also a vast disparity in search-and-rescue success rates between Border Patrol missions and county-led efforts. Per the report, these findings amount to a systemic and racist denial of human rights based on citizenship.

"Based on our original data analysis, we find that Border Patrol is more than twice as likely to take part in directly causing a person to go missing through dangerous enforcement tactics than they are to participate in locating a distressed person," the report states.

But the grim news doesn't stop there. The report also asserts that Border Patrol has not accurately reported the number of bodily remains recovered along the southern border. According to Border Patrol data, the agency recorded 7,805 migrant deaths from 1998 to 2019, but NMD and La Coalición de Derechos Humanos estimate the actual number could be as high as 80,000 lives lost since the adoption of "Prevention Through Deterrence" in 1994.

"Border Patrol's own number of 7,805 border deaths represents only a small fraction of the unknowable scope of the humanitarian emergency playing out every day in the US borderlands," the report states.

NMD and La Coalición de Derechos Humanos included a list of demands with their report, including the legalization of border crossing; the disempowerment, disarmament, and ultimate dissolution of U.S. Border Patrol; and the creation of a reparations program for families of those who have disappeared or been harmed or killed as a result of Border Patrol policy and "discriminatory emergency services."

In a statement shared with The Intercept, Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which oversees Border Patrol, said, "CBP remains committed to humanely securing the southern border of the United States and devotes the totality of its force to finding lost or injured individuals while also balancing the border security mission with which they are charged."