Deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border spiked 27 percent last year, according to a report released Tuesday that calls for the implementation of a guest worker program to stem the number of deaths.
In 2012, 477 migrants lost their lives attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border -- up from 375 the year before, according to the report by the National Foundation for American Policy titled “How Many More Deaths? The Moral Case for a Temporary Worker Program.” That figure is the highest since 2005, when 492 migrants died.
“If Congress adopted reforms to allow the legal entry of foreign workers in sufficient numbers, the tragedy of immigrant deaths at the border would largely disappear and illegal entry to the United States would be reduced,” the report’s author Stuart Anderson said in a statement.
The report, which bases its figures for the number of deaths on data from the U.S. Border Patrol, comes as the U.S. Congress is grappling with the contentious issue of immigration reform. With Republican opposition fading away, a comprehensive bill appears to have a chance of passing this year.
The increase is all the more disturbing because the jump in deaths has occurred as net immigration from Mexico has dropped to net zero or less, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Tuesday’s report estimates that an immigrant crossing the border illegally is eight times more likely to die today than 10 years ago.
Some 5,595 immigrants have died crossing the U.S.-Mexico border since 1998.