Migrant Death Tracker App May Have Unintended Consequence

(Credit: Mother Jones)

Since 2001, over 2,100 migrants have died trying to cross through the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona. On Monday, the Pima County medical examiner’s office and the human rights group Humane Borders jointly unveiled “The Arizona OpenGIS Initiative for Deceased Migrants,” which is a virtual system that would allow the geographic tracking of desert migrant deaths. The application serves to help family members know the grim circumstance surrounding missing border-crossing relatives. Once deceased relatives are located and identified, family members can collect the remains.

Because migration patterns change for human “coyotes” who bring migrants into the United States, this application has far-reaching consequences. Updated quarterly every year, the system will guide humanitarian organizations to know where to leave aid packages such as water at established routes.

But at the same time, this tracking system may be used by anti-immigrant citizen vigilantes like the Minutemen seeking to secure weak border points. Mother Jones’ Tim Murphy points out that migrant deaths have doubled since 2011 since more border enforcement resources have forced migrants to rely on smugglers. Preying on desperate migrants, smugglers have seized the opportunity to offer a way around secure border points by using boats and trucks, many times with disastrous results. Unfortunately, this grim measure of border security based on border deaths may simultaneously create more secure borders, but at the cost of having more border deaths.