EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Immigration advocates used the Day of the Dead celebration to call for an end to U.S. policies they say have led to a record 856 migrant deaths along the Southwest border.

“Too many people have died while crossing the border looking for a better life or a chance to petition for asylum. Those were not circumstantial deaths; they died because of policies that are sending migrants to remote places like deserts, mountains and rivers,” said Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights.

He was referring to policies like Title 42, which empowers border agents to immediately expel on health grounds migrants who cross the border without authorization, and to the state of Texas saturation patrol initiatives like Operation Lone Star.

Members of the group on Wednesday marched from the Chihuahuita neighborhood in South El Paso to a park near the international bridge on Stanton Street. They carried white wooden crosses, lighted candles and lay cardboard coffins to honor migrants who died while attempting to cross into the United States or shortly after making their way over the border wall.

They read names of Mexicans and Central Americans who perished inside a sweltering trailer box in San Antonio and the name of a Guatemalan child, 5-year-old Margaret Sofia, who died in the Rio Grande when the current pulled her away from her mother near El Paso.

El Paso activists lay cardboard coffins on a park near the U.S.-Mexico border on Wednesday night. (Border Report photo)

“I can’t imagine how the relatives feel not ever able to sit and share a meal with their loved ones, they will never share a Christmas with them, and that is sad,” said Margarita Arvizu, who participated in the march.

The group numbering in the dozens concluded their march by setting up a picnic table and dispensing champurrado – a Mexican hot chocolate mix – and pan de muerto, a seasoned bread sprinkled with sugar traditionally consumed south of the border on November 2. That is when the Day of the Dead holiday is observed, honoring departed loved ones