Fourteen Immigrants Die In Arizona Desert : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

I guess Sr. El Presidente Fox's Survial Kits are coming a little late for these poor folks.

Fourteen Immigrants Die In Arizona Desert

Three Others Missing

Wellton, Ariz., 12:16 p.m. EDT May 24, 2001

Fourteen illegal immigrants are dead and at least three others were missing Thursday in the Arizona desert.

Authorities said that smugglers abandoned the group five days ago in the blistering heat of the desert after crossing the border from Mexico.

Search efforts were under way Thursday morning for the missing Mexican immigrants.

Rescuers are using helicopters and four-wheel-drive vehicles.

One official said that footprints indicate that three others remained missing.

The Border Patrol began its search Wednesday after five sunburned survivors found agents and sought help.

A total of 11 immigrants have been rescued.

-- PHO (, May 24, 2001


Mexico plans to issue survival kits to border crossers

Staff and wire reports

The Desert Sun

May 18th, 2001


If it can’t stop emigration to the United States, the Mexican government thinks at least its people shouldn’t die in the process.

So starting next month, the government will distribute up to 200,000 survival kits to people planning to head north.

The kits will contain medicine and information to prepare emigrants for what they face on the trip, which usually includes a trek through the remote deserts and mountains of Arizona or California because of increased U.S. border security.

The packets will include anti-diarrhea medicine, adhesive bandages, aspirin, acetaminophen, medicine for snake and scorpion bites, powder to prevent dehydration, water, salt and food.

Women will receive 25 birth-control pills, men 25 condoms. AIDS is a small but growing problem in rural Mexico. It is spread mostly by men who contract the virus in the United States.

The program will train hundreds of volunteers in first aid and emergency health care. The volunteers will be given surgery soap, sutures for sewing wounds, thermometers, gauze, cotton and other implements to attend to migrants’ medical problems.

The $2 million program, known as "Vete Sano, Regresa Sano" (Leave Healthy, Return Healthy), will begin June 15. It is funded by the Mexican government, which also is seeking funding from the California Endowment, a Woodland Hills-based health foundation.

The endowment has set aside $50 million for programs that improve the health of California farmworkers, part of that to be used in conjunction with the Mexican government.

Officials from the endowment and the Mexican government met this week in San Diego. Even without the endowment’s support, the program will proceed but on a smaller scale, Mexican officials said. Training for volunteers is already under way.

Critics said the program will encourage illegal immigration, not just save lives.

"I really don’t think this will help because you can only really carry water on the long trip," said 19-year-old Mecca resident Mario Ruiz, who crossed the border several years ago. "And I don’t think the smugglers would let us keep the care packages anyway. It might be better if they left the packages in the desert along paths the immigrants use."

Among other things, the program will include tips on maintaining self- esteem and on Asian meditation techniques to combat depression, stress and anxiety.

"Those who’ve gone to the U.S. have told us of their experiences. This is what they’ve told us they need," said Dr. Angel Flores, chief of community action for the Mexican Institute of Social Security, which has a network of 3,000 rural health workers who will distribute the kits.

Deaths: Last year, at least 490 Mexicans died crossing the 1,952-mile border, according to the Mexican government. So far this year, emigrants crossing the border have been dying at a rate of about one a day, though officials say the toll rises in the summer.

In the Imperial and Riverside county deserts, 38 migrants have died since October, agents said. In 2000, there were 77 deaths reported, agents said.

Gloria Chavez, spokeswoman for the San Diego sector of the U.S. Border Patrol, said that, while she was not familiar with the survival-kit plan, it sounds like a good idea. Since 1998, she said, U.S. Border Patrol agents have carried energy drinks, blankets and other emergency supplies to treat such ailments as dehydration and hypothermia among the border crossers.

"Our mission is to prevent deaths," Chavez said.

U.S. Border Patrol agent Manny Figueroa, who works out of Calexico, agreed.

"We feel too many people are dying and if Mexico is taking steps to diminish that, it’s encouraging news."

The packets and health workshops are to be presented to 369 of Mexico’s poorest municipalities, mostly in Oaxaca, Michoacan, Zacatecas and Jalisco states.

Controversy: A committee of doctors and health workers formed by the government’s newly established Office for Mexicans Abroad came up with the idea. Director Juan Hernandez acknowledged the kit might appear to encourage illegal immigration and thus be controversial.

"We’re not going to close our eyes," he said. "We have individuals with needs, and they are dying at the border."

The survival kits have never been tried before. The biggest obstacle to their success could be the people they’re intended to help.

"This could help avoid many deaths. But if you ask emigrants, 70 percent of them don’t see any risks," said Jorge Santibanez, president of El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, a state university in Tijuana, who helped design the program.

The survival packets are the most obvious sign yet of a change in attitude under the administration of President Vicente Fox.

"It reflects a reality that has rarely been reflected officially," Santibanez said. "Mexico avoided actions that could appear to be helping migrants leave. There was a kind of self-censorship: ‘What will the U.S. say if we look like we’re helping them leave?’ This self-censorship has disappeared. This is very positive."

-- PHO (, May 24, 2001.

Dying for water in the promised land

14 Mexicans who tried to cross into Arizona fell prey to a cruel trick

Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles and Jo Tuckman in Mexico City Friday May 25, 2001 The Guardian

No one can carry enough water to last a day in the unforgiving heat of the Arizona desert. Once the body stops sweating, death is swift. Fourteen Mexicans, all male and aged between 17 and 35, who had hoped to find work perhaps as farmworkers, cooks or valet parkers, were the latest to discover the stark desert truths this week, adding to the long list of those who have died trying to reach the promised land that is the United States. At least two others are missing. The group, from the Mexican state of Veracruz, were abandoned by the "coyotes", or smugglers, to whom they would have paid around $1,500 each to be guided across the treacherous border terrain of the Cabeza Prieta national wildlife refuge, to the east of Yuma. The "coyotes" had promised to return with water and assured them that they were only a couple of hours from the highway and a new life inside the US. In fact, the highway was more than 50 miles away and they gradually succumbed to dehydration and heat exhaustion as the temperature reached 115F (46C).

US border patrol agents were alerted by the discovery on Wednesday of 11 exhausted survivors, and a search with helicopters and four-wheel- drive vehicles was launched. Eleven bodies were found close to each other about 25 miles north of the Mexican border, and one survivor died on the way to hospital. Two other bodies were later found.

"It's in the middle of nowhere there," a Yuma border patrol agent, Maurice Moore, said. Footprints in the sand indicated that three others were still lost in the desert, he added. "We intend to work this until we've made sure that there's no one left out there."

Tracking methods

Agents use traditional native American "sign cutting" tracking techniques to find people in the desert, but the immigrants often try to cover their tracks by wearing pieces of carpet or foam round their feet.

"This is evidence of the callousness and the ruthlessness of these smugglers who have now taken human lives to turn them into a commodity," a border patrol spokesman, Rene Noriega, said in Tucson. "It's very barren, very rough terrain out there. In temperatures over 100 degrees, you need to consume at least a gallon of water every hour, and a gallon weighs 8.3lb, so it's almost impossible. There are still two missing and our search, trauma and rescue teams will continue to look for them." He added that it was the greatest number of deaths encountered by the border patrol in Arizona.

This week's victims are the largest number to die in a group while trying to cross from Mexico for at least two decades. In July 1980, a group of 13 Salvadoreans died trying to enter. In all, an estimated 490 people died crossing the 2,100-mile border into the US last year, with at least 106 people dying while trying to enter Arizona.

Up to 300,000 attempt to make the crossing every year, with many planning their journeys now, as the summer demand for farmworkers grows. There are no precise death figures, but there are now memorials on the border with the names of those known to have died.

"The desert is large and sometimes we just find bones," said Dave Dhillon, the founder of the Project for Immigrant Lives. "It's unbelievable the number of deaths we have seen."

Arizona has gradually become one of the most popular crossing points after the US government's Operation Gatekeeper initiative in the 1990s made it harder to cross into California and Texas and the "coyotes" started using more perilous areas. Some local Arizona ranchers have taken to rounding up exhausted immigrants themselves. Migrant groups have said that Operation Gatekeeper should be renamed Operation Deathwatch.

Survival kits

This week's deaths come as Mexico considers issuing survival kits, complete with rehydration powder and antidotes for snake and spider bites to those preparing for the crossing. The new emphasis on migrant support reflects the more active approach to the issue developing under President Vicente Fox, who, since taking office in December, has rarely missed a chance to refer to Mexican migrants as "heroes".

Previous Mexican governments chose to ignore the problems underlying the phenomenon that last year provided the economy with an estimated $1bn sent home by the 21m Mexicans in the US.

The new attitude in Mexico coincides with signs of increasing tolerance in the US, with Mexican social security officials finding greater receptiveness to their efforts to improve working and living conditions for Mexican workers. "People are going to migrate whatever happens. What we want to do is to help them look after themselves," Guadalupe Bello, an official who has designed several aid programmes for migrant workers abroad, said

A US health foundation, the California Endowment, has promised a $50m (£35m) donation for migrant-targeted projects, that could include funding the proposed distribution of survival kits by specially trained health promoters in high emigration areas. But the issue remains delicate, particularly given Mr Fox's current efforts to reach an agreement on guest workers. The Mexican government is consequently forced to tread a fine line between seeking to support the migrants while at the same time not appearing to be encouraging the illegal border crossings.

Yesterday the search was still continuing along the Arizona border, although hopes of finding survivors were slim. More than 100 years ago, Yuma was famous throughout the US as a place where the wildest villains of the wild west ended up.

Not for nothing was Yuma territorial prison known as the hell hole.,3604,496178,00.html

-- Martin Thompson (, May 24, 2001.

The Mexican government is encouraging their people to enter the U. S. illegally so that they can send back money to their relatives in Mexico and boost the Mexican economy. This coupled with the U. S. Congress extention of amnesty (passed 05/21/2001) assures that there will be more tragedies like this.

-- K (, May 25, 2001.

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