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Jul-13-2011 23:30printcomments

Migrant Heartbreaks on the Border

“They come here lacking everything, materially and spiritually” - Leticia Perez, migrant center director

Skeleton of Mexican migrant
'The Juan Doe Problem' Photo by Matt Nager

(LAS CRUCES, N.M.) - Crossings and detentions of undocumented migrants might be sharply down on the US-Mexico border, but many people stuck on the international line face stark conditions. Despite the well-known dangers and difficulties in crossing the border without papers, migrants continue attempting almost Herculean feats to reach the US. And more than a few die on the journey to the Promised Land.

In Sonora, state police announced this month the discovery of eight people who presumably died of exposure to the elements in the inhospitable desert near the US border.

Alerted by ranch hands, state and federal law enforcement authorities recovered the remains of eight people at two ranches and in a mountainous zone located in the municipality of Sonoyta bordering Arizona. Found less than a mile from the US line, the deceased persons showed no “signs of violence,” according to Sonora officials.

Four victims were initially identified as Calixto Yagas Sil of Oaxaca, Adan Gomez Hernandez, Chiapas; Orben Heriberto Lopez Lopez, Chiapas; and Eliadin Vejar Galzviz, Ensenada, Baja California. Mexican authorities calculated that the men perished in a 3-12 month time frame prior to their discovery.

In Ciudad Juarez, meanwhile, a surge in deportations of Mexican nationals from the US is straining the capacity of local migrant service providers. Supported by the Roman Catholic Church, the city’s Migrant House has been forced to set up mattresses in hallways because of a lack of space.

The shelter houses migrants of both sexes and of all ages for average stays ranging from three to five days.

“They come here lacking everything, materially and spiritually,” said Leticia Perez, the center’s director. “Besides having a bed to rest upon, the majority of them here express appreciation for the food and the hot water for bathing.” According to Perez, many deported migrants suffer emotional traumas and require therapeutic care.

Cited in a local news publication, National Migration Institute (INM) statistics report that 3,987 people were deported from the US to Ciudad Juarez between January and the end of May of this year. The numbers jumped as the year wore on, growing from 359 deportees in January to 1,366 in April, the peak month reported so far this year.

In total, Mexico accepted 198,567 deportees from the US during the first five months of 2011. The number was down from the comparable period of last year, when 240,505 Mexican nationals were sent home from the US.

Alejandro Salas Dominguez, Sonora delegate for the INM, said the vast majority of Mexican citizens deported from the US are processed through ports of entry in Baja California and Sonora.

Still, some deportations continue to take place in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, regardless of the widely publicized violence jarring the border city. For example, just in the two-day period of July 12 and 13, at least 27 people were reported murdered in numerous incidents.

Sources:, July 13, 2011. El Diario de Juarez, July 10 and 13, 2011. Articles by EFE and editorial staff., July 11, 2011. La Jornada, July 8, 2011. Article by Fabiola Martinez., June 28, 2011. Article by Miguel Vargas. La Prensa de San Luis (Sonora), May 19, 2011.

Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico

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