14 Abandoned Border Crossers Die in Arizona; Others Missing

Fourteen more deaths — a record number for a single day — have been caused by policies which push migrants into dangerous crossing areas
along the Mexico-U.S. Border. The following article gives more information on this tragedy, perhaps the worst death toll since 1980.

Fourteen more deaths — a record number for a single day — have been caused by policies which push migrants into dangerous crossing areas
along the Mexico-U.S. Border. The following article gives more information on this tragedy, perhaps the worst death toll since 1980. [National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights – nnirr@igc.org]

Arizona – Fourteen illegal immigrants have died and one was missing today, five days after smugglers abandoned them in the blistering heat of the Arizona desert.

The death toll was a record for immigrant smuggling in Arizona.

Rescuers using helicopters and four-wheel-drive vehicles found one survivor early today and, based on footprints, believed another Mexican
immigrant remained missing.

“We intend to work this until we’ve made sure that there’s no one left out there,” Border Patrol spokesman Maurice Moore said. “It’s in the middle of nowhere there.”

Searchers had found 11 bodies Wednesday, and one immigrant died en route to a hospital. Two more bodies were found overnight, Moore said.

One of the suspected smugglers was arrested in the Mexican state of Sonora and could face murder charges, said Ruben Beltran, an official
with the Mexican Consulate in Phoenix.

Dr. David Haynes, who treated the survivors, said they had suffered kidney damage and “would all be dead if they hadn’t been brought in to the hospital when they were.”

The survivors looked shriveled, he said, adding, “Have you ever seen a mummy from ancient Egypt? That gives you an idea.”

Survivors said the immigrants, all men or teen-age boys, were smuggled into the United States on Saturday east of Yuma, in the rugged terrain of the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge.

The smugglers left them there, promising to return with water and instructing them to walk for “a couple of hours” to a highway. But they
never came back. The highway was more than 50 miles from where they were abandoned.

The Border Patrol began its search Wednesday after five sunburned survivors found agents and sought help. Temperatures climbed as high as 115 degrees.

Search teams were operating out of Wellton, 130 miles southwest of Phoenix. The bodies were discovered about 25 miles from the Mexican
border.

The 14 immigrants who succumbed to exposure made up the largest group of border crossers ever to die in Arizona, Border Patrol spokesman Rene Noriega said in Tucson. He didn’t know what the worst death toll in other states was.

In July 1980, 13 Salvadorans died in the desert Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, 50 miles east of where the current group died.

Arizona became a popular crossing point for illegal immigrants in the 1990s, after crackdowns in California and Texas pushed more people to try to enter the country through remote and dangerous areas.

The Border Patrol said 106 people died while crossing southern Arizona’s deserts during the 12-month period that ended on Sept. 30, 2000. Many of them died from exposure.

“What’s causing it is the deadly strategy of the Border Patrol that has forced people into the most hazardous areas of the desert,” said the
Rev. John Fife, a Tucson pastor who supports a program that built a watering station for immigrants in Arizona.

In August 1997, eight Mexican illegal immigrants drowned after being swept away by a 15-foot high wall of water in a normally dry wash a few yards inside Arizona. In June 1996, five illegal immigrants from Mexico died of exposure in the desert 30 miles south of Casa Grande.

“People are very, very ill-prepared to understand the distances and the dangers and threats to their lives,” said the Rev. Robin Hoover, a Tucson pastor who sets up water stations for border crossers. “For many of the people who cross, they have no idea what they are encountering.”

Author:

News Service: Associated Press (5/24/01)