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  4. Border Rescues and Mortality Data

Border Rescues and Mortality Data

Transnational criminal organizations continue to recklessly endanger the lives of individuals they smuggle for their own financial gain. Smuggling organizations often abandon migrants in remote and dangerous areas, where severe heat, exposure, and miles of unforgiving desert pose countless threats to migrants. Preventing the loss of life is core to our mission, and CBP personnel endeavor to rescue those in distress. Tragically, the number of deaths in these harsh environments is still too high.

Pursuant to Congressional reporting requirements, CBP tracks migrant deaths under two separate sets of criteria. CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) conducts independent oversight of in-custody and certain other CBP-related deaths. CBP and the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) also track southwest border (SWB) deaths, in conjunction with their Missing Migrant Program (MMP). CBP initiated the MMP in 2017 to prevent the deaths of migrants during their journey with signage, rescue beacons, and other tools to enable individuals in distress to contact agency personnel.

While CBP works hard to track this information as fully and accurately as possible, these data are not all encompassing. These numbers may differ from other organizations that track similar data.

In FY 2021, CBP components conducted a combined 1,956,519 enforcement actions across the United States. From these enforcement actions, CBP OPR reviewed 151 CBP-related deaths. The deaths were categorized into three categories: In Custody (Reportable), Not in Custody (Reportable), and Not in Custody (Not Reportable).
 


In Custody (Reportable)


  • Subject dies in the process of being physically detained by CBP
  • Subject dies after being detained or arrested or while being escorted to a CBP vehicle
  • Subject dies due to vehicle collision, is struck by a vehicle, or dies by any other means while being actively pursued by CBP
  • Subject dies due to actions of CBP while attempting to detain or arrest subject (e.g., struck by CBP vehicle)
  • Subject dies while being transported by, or in the custody of, a CBP contractor
  • Subject dies in a CBP holding facility or in route to a CBP holding facility
  • Subject dies as a result of any use of force by CBP personnel
  • Subject dies while undergoing secondary inspection or detained by CBP personnel for any other reason
  • Subject dies after being admitted to a medical facility while still in CBP’s legal custody

Not in Custody (Reportable)


  • Subject dies while attempting to elude CBP but not being actively pursued (including falls from border barriers)
  • Subject dies before, during, or after primary or outbound inspection at a port of entry (unless referred to secondary or due to use of force)
  • Subject dies before, during, or after primary inspection at a USBP checkpoint (unless referred to secondary or due to use of force)
  • Subject that is not detained or arrested dies while being transported in a CBP-owned vehicle or other conveyance with the sole purpose of obtaining immediate medical care
  • Subject dies while processing of import/export paperwork or while paying import/export fees

Not in Custody (Not Reportable)


  • Subject discovered in medical distress and dies in the field or in route to hospital (not in a CBP vehicle)
  • Subject discovered in medical distress and dies during initial lifesaving efforts at hospital
  • Remains discovered by CBP personnel
  • Discovery of deceased individuals by other agencies
  • Deaths resulting from an enforcement action in which CBP personnel did not participate
  • Subject found deceased by CBP personnel in connection with a search and rescue operation


CBP-Related Deaths: Incidents by Classification

Of note, the not in custody and not reportable deaths included in the OPR review, shown below, were only those involving decedents who are found in medical distress and who died during initial lifesaving efforts.

Total Incidents by classification pie chart of in custody deaths, not in custody, and not in custody/not reportable

 

CBP-Related Deaths: Incident Types

Classification by Incident Type


For additional information and more detailed data regarding the OPR data, please see the FY2021 CBP-Related Deaths Report. For further additional information, please read the Notification and Review Procedures for Certain Deaths and Deaths in Custody.

The USBP Missing Migrant Program (MMP) continues to expand partnerships with key stakeholders to improve tracking of reportable incidents. The MMP was implemented under the Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act of 2019 (P.L. 116–277). Through partnerships with federal, state, tribal, and local agencies, along with nongovernmental organizations (NGO) and foreign consular offices, USBP now has a standardized, active MMP in all nine USBP Southwest Border sectors.

The MMP’s statistics are pulled from designated target zones, which comprise 45 counties along the southwest border that are historical routes of travel for undocumented migrants. The MMP maintains the following criteria for decedents included in their report:

A suspected undocumented migrant who died:

  • In furtherance of an illegal entry,
  • Within a designated target zone, or
  • Whether or not USBP was involved directly;

or

A suspected undocumented migrant who died:

  • In furtherance of an illegal entry,
  • Outside of a designated target zone, or
  • If USBP was involved directly with the incident.

USBP Southwest Border Deaths by Discoverer

Discoverer FY 2017 FY 2018 FY 2019 FY 2020 FY 2021
USBP 201 201 226 200 448
Other* 97 80 74 54 120
Totals 298 281 300 254 568


*Other includes discovery by federal, state, tribal, and local agencies other than CBP.
 

USBP Southwest Border Deaths by Gender

Gender FY 2017 FY 2018 FY 2019 FY 2020 FY 2021
Female 18 15 28 22 101
Male 151 164 178 148 364
Unknown 129 102 94 84 103
Totals 298 281 300 254 568

 

USBP Southwest Border Deaths by Age Group

Age Group FY 2017 FY 2018 FY 2019 FY 2020 FY 2021
0 - 17 9 4 8 7 8
18 - 25 29 44 43 46 110
26 - 35 43 39 53 42 114
36 - 45 30 32 40 27 75
46 - 55 6 9 12 9 37
56 and Older 2 2 3 6 13
Unknown 179 151 141 117 211
Totals 298 281 300 254 568

 

USBP Southwest Border Deaths by Nationality

Nationality FY 2017 FY 2018 FY 2019 FY 2020 FY 2021
Bangladesh 1 2 1 0 0
Brazil 7 1 1 0 4
China 0 0 1 0 1
Colombia 0 1 0 0 2
Cuba 1 0 0 0 4
Dominican Republic 2 0 3 0 0
Ecuador 6 2 6 4 12
El Salvador 15 8 7 2 19
Guatemala 20 20 21 11 32
Honduras 10 14 16 11 30
India 0 0 1 0 0
Kazakhstan 1 0 0 0 0
Mexico 98 117 124 136 334
Nicaragua 1 1 2 0 4
Peru 0 1 0 0 0
Romania 1 0 0 0 0
Venezuela 0 0 0 1 1
Unknown 135 114 117 89 125
Totals 298 281 300 254 568

 

USBP Southwest Border Deaths Reported by Sector

Sector FY 2017 FY 2018 FY 2019 FY 2020 FY 2021
Rio Grande Valley Sector 104 96 69 58 130
Laredo Sector 84 69 78 57 75
Del Rio Sector 18 20 38 34 100
Big Bend Sector 3 10 3 15 39
El Paso Sector 8 6 20 10 39
Tucson Sector 73 58 61 43 78
Yuma Sector 2 1 7 7 30
El Centro Sector 2 17 17 17 45
San Diego Sector 4 4 7 13 32
Totals 298 281 300 254 568

 

USBP Southwest Border Death by Type

Type of Death FY 2017 FY 2018 FY 2019 FY 2020 FY 2021
Environmental Exposure-Heat 68 95 110 104 219
Environmental Exposure-Cold 2 28 7 7 21
Train-Related 2 0 0 1 1
Motor-Vehicle-Related 2 5 11 9 41
Water-Related 91 54 66 41 78
Other1 51 36 21 20 86
Undetermined2 35 37 60 42 73
Skeletal Remains3 47 26 25 30 49
Totals 298 281 300 254 568


1 Type of death that doesn’t fall into one of the other stated categories to include, animal-related, homicide, suicide, etc.

2 A deceased subject is found, and the cause of death cannot be determined by the medical examiner

3 Only bones are discovered from a deceased individual, to include not a full set of bones.

The USBP Southwest Border rescues data highlights the extraordinary number of resources USBP has dedicated to this humanitarian mission and to preventing the loss of life.
 

USBP Southwest Border Rescue Incidents by Sector

Sector FY 2017 FY 2018 FY 2019 FY 2020 FY 2021
Rio Grande Valley Sector 355 345 184 138 508
Laredo Sector 248 278 310 317 568
Del Rio Sector 50 60 108 104 906
Big Bend Sector 12 27 13 66 190
El Paso Sector 19 10 20 4 526
Tucson Sector 476 574 570 423 164
Yuma Sector 2 10 23 35 137
El Centro Sector 4 9 30 69 158
San Diego Sector 27 13 16 40 266
Totals 1,193 1,326 1,274 1,196 3,423

 

USBP Southwest Border Rescues by Sector

Sector FY 2017 FY 2018 FY 2019 FY 2020 FY 2021
Rio Grande Valley Sector 1,191 1,623 794 304 949
Laredo Sector 1,242 1,509 2,453 3,549 7,109
Del Rio Sector 99 114 480 202 2,096
Big Bend Sector 26 71 45 150 748
El Paso Sector 44 17 40 12 688
Tucson Sector 757 926 930 774 233
Yuma Sector 6 20 82 114 424
El Centro Sector 4 14 78 171 328
San Diego Sector 48 25 19 60 282
Totals 3,417 4,319 4,921 5,336 12,857

 

USBP Southwest Border Rescues by Type

Rescue Type FY 2017 FY 2018 FY 2019 FY 2020 FY 2021
Environmental Exposure-Heat 366 480 380 458 1,664
Environmental Exposure-Cold 49 56 64 56 317
Water-Related 54 53 239 206 136
Other 511 547 444 319 1,076
Motor-Vehicle-Related 215 188 138 152 209
Train-Related 0 6 9 9 22
Totals 1,195 1,330 1,274 1,200 3,424

 

USBP Southwest Border: Number of People by Rescue Type

Rescue Type FY 2017 FY 2018 FY 2019 FY 2020 FY 2021
Environmental Exposure-Heat 725 1,209 924 1,159 3,760
Environmental Exposure-Cold 112 118 132 139 961
Water-Related 131 86 742 384 249
Other 829 945 768 631 1,713
Motor-Vehicle-Related 1,620 1,938 2,343 2,979 5,999
Train-Related 0 23 12 44 175
Totals 3,417 4,319 4,921 5,336 12,857
Last Modified: Jul 24, 2023