Edward Markey

From the office of:

Edward Markey

From: The Honorable Juan Vargas
Sent By:
Date: 10/30/2015


Current co-signers (19): Ruben Hinojosa, Filemon Vela, James McGovern, Mark Takano, Gwen Moore, Ruben Gallego, Michelle Lujan Grisham, Lloyd Doggett, Joaquin Castro, Zoe Lofgren,  Michael E. Capuano, Beto O’Rourke, Mark Pocan, Paul Tonko, John Conyers, Grace Napolitano, Luis Gutierrez, Henry Cuellar, Mike M. Honda

Dear Colleague,

The Department of Homeland Security estimates that 5,000 migrants have perished crossing our southern border since 1998.  Human rights organizations estimate that number is closer to 8,000, since many remains are never recovered.  Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has made great strides in reducing migrant deaths with the implementation of Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue (BORSTAR) Unit, but it is not enough.

Please join us in urging CBP to incorporate the protection of life as a top priority in carrying out their mission.  Additionally, the letter encourages CBP to form stronger alliances with Non-Government Organizations in border sectors to collaborate around this common mission.   If you have any questions or would like to be added to this letter, please contact Daniel Gaytan in Rep. Vargas’ office at or at 202-225-8045.


Juan Vargas                                          Raul Grijalva
Member of Congress                             Member of Congress





Honorable R. Gil Kerlikowske, Commissioner
Customs and Border Protection
1300 Pennsylvannia Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20229

Dear Commissioner Kerlikowske:

We write to underscore the tragic and persistent migrant deaths that occur every year at our southern border.

According to recent data, Foreign Affairs reported last year that “[s]ince 1998,  according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, approximately 5,000 migrants have died crossing the border. Most human rights organizations estimate that number  is closer to 8,000, since many remains are never recovered.”1  Awareness of migrant deaths has grown with the broadcasting ofThe Real Death Valley, an investigation aired by The Weather Channel and Telemundo. This film highlights the brutal conditions  that immigrants are exposed to on their trek across Texas’ southern border.

Rescue beacons have played a key role in saving lives. Until recently, however, the Tucson sector had only 22 rescue beacons for over 90,000 square miles while the Rio Grande Valley sector contained six for over 18,500 square miles.2  There was a successful expansion of beacons in the Tucson sector last year – a sector that has made significant cooperative strides with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – but more are urgently needed.

We know you and your leadership are deeply concerned about the humane treatment of migrants. It is our shared goal to reduce the suffering of those in distress. Customs Border Protection (CBP) has made great strides in alleviating the suffering of migrants through the Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue (BORSTAR) Unit and we look forward to working with you to expand and complement its remarkable work. However, we would like to know more about your policy recommendations to reduce migrant- deaths. In addition, please explain what equipment (like rescue beacons) could be further utilized and how CBP personnel can interact and share information with NGOs on topics such as mapping migrant deaths.

We believe it is in everyone’s best interest that CBP convene regular meetings in each affected border sector with NGOs and relevant government agencies (including Mexico). These discussions should clearly inform sector-level action plans, with rapid implementation, to improve search-and-rescue capabilities and examine how enforcement can remain effective while minimizing the loss of life.

Thank you for your careful consideration on this vital matter, we look forward to your response.


1 Ananda Rose, “What Happens After Crossing the Border,” Foreign Affairs (July 2, 2014),
2 Maureen Meyer, Washington Office on Latin America, “Expanding the Number of Rescue Beacons at the Border Could Help Save Migrants in Distress.” (June 27, 2013),