March 21, 2013 -- The number of immigrants who die while they attempt to illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border increased significantly in 2012, even though there seems to be a far smaller pool of people who are actually trying to make the risky crossing.
This awkward trend was highlighted in a report released on Tuesday by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), a think tank based in Arlington, Virginia.
NFAP argues that immigrants are trying to cross the border at "increasingly" remote and dangerous areas because law enforcement along the border has gotten tougher and the overall number of border patrol agents has increased.
In its report, which uses data collected by the Border Patrol, the organization says that deaths along the border went up by 27 percent in 2012.
"This is not the fault of Border Patrol agents, who do not make overall immigration policy," the report says. "The policy on border enforcement is made ultimately by elected officials, the President and Members of Congress, as well as by the Secretary of Homeland Security and the leadership at U.S. Customs and Border Protection."
According to NFAP, 477 immigrants died in 2012 along the U.S. Mexico border. Back in 1998, when the border patrol had half as many agents as it currently has, only 263 immigrants reportedly died in border crossings.
But while the number of immigrants who die in border crossings has almost doubled, the number of people who are actually trying to cross seems to be drastically falling.
In 2012, the border patrolled captured roughly 356,000 undocumented immigrants at the border, but in 1999 it caught a whopping 1.5 million immigrants.
Apprehensions are a good proxy for how many undocumented immigrants are crossing the U.S. border.
NFAP says that these numbers suggest that the border is getting more dangerous for immigrants. Testimonies from organizations that work along the border seem to confirm this.
Geoff Boyce, a spokesman for an Arizona nonprofit called No More Deaths, told USA Today that immigrants are now crossing the border in a remote area of the desert that comprises 900 square miles but has just two paved roads.
He said the crossing takes three to four days, and is made in temperatures as high as 110 degrees, in the summer, and below freezing in winter time.
"Even the healthiest person is going to have a hard time surviving in those kinds of conditions," Boyce told USA Today.
Read more here, about how the border is getting more deadly for immigrants.