UN: US-Mexico Border World’s Deadliest Land Crossing

UN: US-Mexico Border World's Deadliest Land Crossing water bottles are displayed at a makeshift memorial Water bottles are displayed at a makeshift memorial at the spot where a tractor-trailer was discovered with migrants inside, outside San Antonio, Texas, on June 29. (Chandan Khanna/Getty Images)

By Charlie McCarthy | Monday, 04 July 2022 09:01 AM EDT

The southern border migrant crisis has produced the world's deadliest land crossing, a United Nations organization said.

"More than 1,238 lives have been lost during migration in the Americas in 2021, among them at least 51 children," the International Organization for Migration's (IOM) Missing Migrants Project (MMP) reported.

"At least 728 of these deaths occurred on the United States-Mexico border crossing, making this the deadliest land crossing in the world, according to the data."

Nearly 500 migrants who died last year remain unidentified. Of those who have been identified, Mexicans (154) make up the largest group, followed by Guatemalans (129) and Venezuelans (94), the MMP report said.

The news came several days after 53 migrants, who were being smuggled into the U.S., died after being were found inside a tractor-trailer sweltering under the Texas sun.

"The number of deaths on the United States-Mexico border last year is significantly higher than in any year prior, even before COVID-19," Edwin Viales, who comprised the new IOM report, said.

"Yet, this number remains an undercount due to the diverse challenges for data collection."

The deaths and disappearances recorded in 2021 accounted for the highest number of lives lost in the Americas since 2014, when MMP began documenting migrant deaths.

The total was a significant increase compared to 2020 (798 deaths) and 2019 (854 deaths).

Customs and Border Protection statistics showed that 239,416 migrants were encountered at the southern border in May – the fourth straight month of increasing encounters.

Nearly 2 million migrants have been released into the U.S. under President Joe Biden, the Center for Immigration Studies said late last month.

That was before the Supreme Court last week ruled that the Biden administration could end "Remain in Mexico" — a policy, begun under then-President Donald Trump, that required migrants to stay in Mexico to await U.S. hearings on their asylum claims.

IOM is part of the U.N. System as the leading intergovernmental organization promoting since 1951 humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all, with 174 member states and a presence in over 100 countries.

Since 2014, the MMP has recorded people who die in the process of migration towards an international destination, regardless of their legal status.