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Risks for border crossers on Web

Site gives chances of dying, based on day’s high temperature

There’s a 48 percent chance Monday that someone will die illegally crossing the border in Pima County, a 52 percent chance Tuesday, and a 60 percent chance Wednesday, when temperatures are expected to top out at 107 degrees.

The predictions come from a new Web site designed to prevent migrant deaths by advising people how dangerous the U.S.-Mexico border is on any given day.

They are based on research from the University of Arizona’s department of emergency medicine that analyzed the number of migrant deaths from 2002-05 in Pima County. The busiest and deadliest corridor for illegal immigrants along the Southwest border is in Pima County, with deaths clustered around the Altar Valley and the Tohono O’odham Nation.

“This is the most lethal disease in Arizona, period,” said Dr. Samuel M. Keim, the UA associate professor of emergency medicine who led the study and helped design the Web site. “If there’s maybe 1,000 to 2,000 border crossers out in the desert today, and the risk is greater than a 50 percent chance that one or more of them will die, no other disease striking any population in Arizona comes close to that.”

The level of risk is tied to temperature and increases dramatically when the temperature goes over 100 degrees, Keim said. The Web site targets those living and working along the border, especially those who work directly with migrants such as humanitarian aid groups and the Border Patrol’s rescue unit, BORSTAR.

“A day at 100 is very different than a day at 105, so this will allow them to better distribute their resources,” Keim said.

The project will also record a corrido, a popular musical form in Mexico that relates current events, written by UA sociology professor Celestino Fernandez and performed by a professional musician, to get the message to migrants preparing to cross.

“Border crossers aren’t watching or reading billboards,” Keim said. “They’re getting ready to cross, and many of them are listening to the radio.”

The bilingual Web site was launched last week at the biannual Arizona Mexico Commission meeting held in Tucson. It can be found at http://borderrisk.med.arizona.edu/crossingRisk.html

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