In this year-long investigation from Futuro Investigates, we dig into how the U.S. government and Border Patrol’s decades-long “prevention through deterrence” policies have knowingly created a deadly funnel, pushing migrants attempting to cross from Mexico to the U.S. into the deadliest terrain in the country, including the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona.

Over the last two decades, more than 4,000 remains of people believed to have died attempting to cross the border have been recovered from this region. And many more people have disappeared. Last year, 225 deaths were recorded in this stretch of southern Arizona. The actual death toll is unknown, but experts say it is likely much higher than has been reported.  

As a result, for years, a number of volunteer organizations have made it their mission to go out into the most dangerous areas of the desert to conduct water drops and to search for missing people. We examine why volunteers, lacking the financial resources and manpower of U.S. agencies, have to continue to take on this dangerous work as Border Patrol’s multi-billion dollar budget continues to increase, including money earmarked specifically for search and rescue. We also speak with a network of local organizations, activists, volunteers and officials who are taking on the challenge of trying to identify the remains of those who’ve perished without identification in hopes of one day being able to return them home to their families.

Jess Alvarenga contributed reporting to this investigation. 

“Death by Policy: Crisis In The Arizona Desert” is an original production from Futuro Investigates, Futuro’s new investigative unit. You can read more articles related to this topic, find original data and visualizations mapping deaths in the Sonoran Desert, and view full photo galleries on the new Futuro Investigates website.

Related posts:

6 thoughts on “Death by Policy: Crisis in the Arizona Desert

  1. I’d like to donate to the Blue Armadillos Search and Rescue, but I can’t find them online. Help? I listen to you every week and really like the show!

  2. This is an eye opening episode. I want to make a donation to The Blue Armadillos, but am not finding them on Gofundme. Can someone point me in the right direction?
    Thank you

  3. Hello,
    This is John writing from southwest Victoria Australia. Thank you and your team for having the courage to document and film the victimization of refugees inside the Arizona border. Similar things are happening here in Australia with the treatment of refugees where Australian governments have been willing to spend $Billions incarcerating hundreds of them in off-shore processing prisons and inside domestic detention centres here.
    Like the US authorities, Australian governments are scapegoating refugees who are being treated as criminals even though most have never committed any crime.Again like in the US,refugees to Australia, just like Mexicans trying to escape poverty, the impacts of war or extreme weather , are being traumatized,deliberately and unnecessarily. George Orwell was right : governments authority is built on scapegoating innocent people.

  4. I was thoroughly in engrossed in Death by Policy. I have since searched to see if there is a way to donate to the work of the Blue Armadillos, especially to make a tax-deductible contribution THIS YEAR. Do you have information about this? Is there a direct contact for the Blue Armadillos?

    I am trying to find out if Border Angels still provides some funding for Blue Armadillos but have yet to receive a response. The Border Angels seems to have multiple large scale streams of funding for its own programs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.