U.S. Border Patrol figures show a 47 percent decrease in apprehensions since 2009.
However, migrant deaths continue at a steady pace, and the Tucson sector has the highest numbers.
Dr. Gregory Hess, chief medical examiner in Pima County, says it’s his job to provide accurate and timely death investigations.
He says since modern immigration and border protection policies were implemented in the 1990s, thousands of remains of men, women and children have been recovered on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We’ve been kind of the hotbed for about 10 years, especially with the death aspect of it,” says Hess.
Having such a large swath of the border fall under the jurisdiction of his office means that migrant deaths account for much of the work of his staff.
“At the end of 2011 we had recorded 1,911 migrant deaths since 2001,” he says, as he looks at the files that are kept for hundreds of unidentified bodies. “This is so many. Nobody else has this problem.”
Hess says migrant deaths peaked in 2010, with 230 bodies recovered in the desert. He says numbers in 2012 are on track to match the yearly average of 184.