Journal Article

Deaths in the Desert: The Human Rights Crisis on the U.S.–Mexico Border

David K. Androff and Kyoko Y. Tavassoli

in Social Work

Published on behalf of National Association of Social Workers

Volume 57, issue 2, pages 165-173
Published in print April 2012 | ISSN: 0037-8046
Published online April 2012 | e-ISSN: 1545-6846 | DOI:
Deaths in the Desert: The Human Rights Crisis on the U.S.–Mexico Border

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Many would acknowledge that immigration is a major issue in the United States and that immigration reform should be a priority. However, there is little attention to the human rights crisis on the U.S.–Mexican border. As a result of tightened border security since 1994, it is estimated that over 5,000 migrants have died in the Sonoran desert. The criminalization of immigration has resulted in a human rights crisis in three areas: (1) the rise of deaths and injuries of migrants crossing the border in harsh and remote locations, (2) the use of mass hearings to prosecute apprehended migrants, and (3) abuses of migrants in immigration detention. These policies and practices have serious repercussions for the affected vulnerable population. Despite recent legislation designed to discourage undocumented immigration, such as Arizona's Senate Bill 1070, the deterrence strategy has not diminished migration—it has only increased the suffering and deaths of migrants. Humanitarian groups are working to prevent more deaths but also have been targeted for criminalization. The profession's ethics compel social workers to work with humanitarian organizations to prevent more deaths and to advocate for humane immigration reform.

Keywords: border policy; ethics and values; human rights; immigration; migrants

Journal Article.  5471 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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