Border Bishops Brace for "Season of Death"

More Illegal Immigrants Perishing in Arizona Desert

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MEXICO CITY, MAY 26, 2004 ( Catholic Church leaders in Mexico and the United States fear this year’s «season of death» for illegal border crossings could be the worst so far.

The so-called season runs from the end of May until October, a time of dangerous heat in the Arizona desert. Bishops along both sides of the border have warned about the plight of illegal immigrants who enter the United States through that desert.

The predictions of death are based on data that the Mexican Secretariat of Government and the U.S. Border Patrol have on deaths during the «low season,» from October to May.

Mexico said 61 people have died during the low season on the border between the states of Sonora and Arizona. The Border Patrol puts the figure at 53.

Both figures are well above the totals of previous years. Hence, officials fear this year’s «season of death» could see more than 500 deaths.

U.S. and Mexican bishops have called for greater attention to migrant workers, to safeguard their fundamental rights. The prelates argue that to be «illegal» does not mean to be delinquent.

According to estimates of Church offices that assist immigrants in the United States and Mexico, more immigrants will die this year because of tighter border security and the recent promise of amnesty.

The amnesty policy, announced by President George Bush, could attract thousands more people to the United States, who hope to be in the country when the amnesty takes effect.

U.S. sources estimate that there are 8 million to 12 million illegal immigrants in the country, 90% of whom are Catholic.

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