by Daniel González
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 29, 2011 10:43 PM

The Border Patrol says the remains of 192 illegal immigrants who died crossing the border were found in Arizona last year.

That is 23 percent fewer than the year before, a record year, when the remains of 250 migrants were found in Arizona by the Border Patrol.

Still, Arizona remains the deadliest state for illegal border crossings. Fifty-four percent of the 353 migrant deaths recorded along the entire Southwest border last year occurred in Arizona, down from 67 percent of the 373 total migrant deaths the year before, according to Border Patrol statistics.

Of the 192 migrant deaths recorded in Arizona, 191 occurred in the Tucson Sector, which covers most of the state's border with Mexico.

When it comes to illegal border crossings, the Tucson Sector is the busiest of the nine Border Patrol sectors that stretch from California to Texas.

Steven Passement, a supervisory Border Patrol agent, said migrant deaths fell last year because fewer people were crossing the border illegally. Border Patrol apprehensions, a measure of illegal-immigrant traffic, fell 41 percent in the Tucson Sector compared with the year before.

The Tucson Sector also has more agents who are able to reach remote areas to rescue migrants in distress, he said.

He said the ability to reach remote areas may have been a factor in the spike in migrant deaths in 2010 since agents often find skeletal remains of migrants who died years earlier.

Juanita Molina, executive director of Humane Borders, a humanitarian group based in Tucson, said migrant deaths remain a major concern despite the decrease last year.

She said migrant deaths have not fallen at the same rate as the drop in illegal-immigrant traffic. Tighter border security has closed the corridors illegal immigrants used in the past. As a result, they are crossing through ever more remote and dangerous areas, she said.

"They are still dying at the same rate, and people are dying in more remote areas," she said.

In the Yuma Sector, deaths have dropped sharply from the record 40 deaths recorded in 2005. Last year, only one migrant was found dead.

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