Border fence jumpers breaking bones

Women who broke their legs jumping from the fence heal at the Juan Bosco immigrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora. Photo by Mike Christy/Arizona Daily Star.

NOGALES, Sonora — The 31-year-old Oaxaca native was dangling by one arm, a drop of more than two stories below her.

Slowly, her hand slipped and her legs slammed the desert floor with a bone-rattling thud.

She couldn’t move. All she could think about was the 14-year-old daughter she had left behind — whom she might never see again.

Reports of migrants getting hurt when trying to jump the fence or trekking through the treacherous desert are not new, but immigrant shelters and Mexican officials are seeing a spike of migrants — especially women — getting hurt trying to jump the border fence. They think, incorrectly, that the jump will be easier than making the treacherous trek through the 100-degree desert.

“It’s the same crossing through the wall or through the desert,” said Gilda Felix, director of the Juan Bosco immigrant shelter in Nogales, where many of the injured are brought before going home. “Both are difficult and dangerous.”

This year the Mexican Consulate in Tucson has seen more people needing medical attention after falling from the border fence than from crossing the desert, said Ricardo Pineda, the consul general. So far this year, there have been 37 cases of injured Mexican migrants. In all of 2014 Pineda’s office reported 56 cases. That includes all injuries, not just falling from the fence.

The Juan Bosco shelter is averaging about 20 to 30 injured men and woman a month, most of them with foot and spine fractures. One recent day Felix had three women with foot injuries.

“There always have been people crossing this way,” Felix said, “but now as the summer starts and it’s not cold, people want to cross.”

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

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Pregnant border crossers being detained more, longer

A Honduran woman, who is seeking asylum, spent the first few months of her pregnancy in a detention center. She said her pregnancy was affected by her detention because of stress and poor nutrition. Photo by A.E. Araiza/Arizona Daily Star.

A clash between immigration enforcement priorities and detention policies means more pregnant women are being detained longer.

That puts women and their babies at greater risk because of the added stress and sometimes inadequate medical care, say groups that work with immigrant detainees. It also boosts the burden to the nation’s taxpayers if babies in detention are born at public expense.

“They have to have nutrition and medical care that tends to their particular pregnancy,” standards that can’t be met in detention, said Laurie Melrood, a local social worker and advocate who has visited with women in detention for years.

Officials with the Florence Project, an Arizona nonprofit that provides free legal services to people in immigration detention, said this year they are serving more pregnant women being held at Eloy Detention Center, about 60 miles northwest of Tucson. Those who are eligible for release are being given high bond amounts, usually exceeding $10,000, Florence Project officials said.

The Eloy center has always held pregnant women, but most of them were released once Immigration and Customs Enforcement knew they were pregnant, Melrood said.

But now recent arrivals are considered a top priority for immigration enforcement and are being detained.

“The trend seems to be to keep them as long as possible,” Melrood said.

As of June 25, ICE said there were 12 pregnant women at Eloy. All of them met the agency’s enforcement priorities, ICE said.

“Decisions for humanitarian release — stemming from various medical conditions, including pregnancy — are based on the merits of each case, the factual information provided to the agency, the potential threat to public health and safety, and the totality of the individual’s circumstances,” Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe, an Arizona ICE spokeswoman, said in a written statement.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Death at Eloy immigration center ruled suicide

There have been 14 deaths at the Eloy Detention Center since 2003. Photo: Arizona Daily Star archive.

The death of a man who died while being held at the immigration detention facility in Eloy was a suicide, an autopsy report shows.

Jose Deniz-Sahagun, a 31-year-old Mexican national, was found unresponsive on May 20, two days after arriving at the facility.

On May 19, Deniz-Sahagun was evaluated for “delusional thoughts and behaviors for which he had to be restrained by correction staff,” the report released Wednesday by the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner said.

He was placed on constant watch due that day to suicidal concerns. He was removed from suicide watch May 20 and placed in a single cell during which checks by corrections staff were to occur every 15 minutes, the report said.

Deniz-Sahagun is last seen at his cell door at 4:57 p.m. May 20, the report said. Then, more than 30 minutes later, about 5:33 p.m., emergency responders are seen on a video going into his cell. Efforts to revive Deniz-Sahagun failed.

Deniz-Sahagun had stuffed one of his knee-high orange socks down his throat. A small white plastic handle, possibly from a toothbrush, was inside his stomach, said Dr. Gregory Hess, the chief medical examiner.

Deniz-Sahagun tried to illegally cross the border through Douglas on May 15, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has said.

He had been deported twice in the last four years. The most recent deportation was in April 2013, after the Border Patrol arrested him near Calexico, California.

At the time of his death, ICE said, Deniz-Sahagun was awaiting a hearing before an immigration judge on his pending deportation. The agency did not immediately respond to an email about the suicide.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Police commander in violence-plagued Sonoyta killed

During the first two weeks of December 2014, the Mexico’s attorney office in Sonora burned about 44,000 tons of marijuana, 156 pounds of methamphetamine, 12 pounds of heroin, about 26 pounds of cocaine, 30 pounds of marijuana seeds and and about one gallon of meth in liquid form. The drugs had been previously seized in the municipalities of Cajeme, Hermosillo, Sonoyta, Nogales, Agua Prieta and San Luis Río Colorado. Photo courtesy of Procuraduría General de la República, the Mexican federal police.

A Sonoyta police official was killed Sunday, the Sonora investigative police reported.

Saúl Fernando Félix del Castillo, deputy chief of the Plutarco Elías Calles municipal police, was found dead at about 8:20 a.m. in a vacant lot of the Burócrata neighborhood in the border town across from Lukeville.

A gunshot wound was visible, the news release said, and officials found handgun bullet casings at the scene.

Sonoyta and the rural communities to the east, all part of the municipality of Plutarco Elias Calles, have been the battleground for rival cartel factions vying to control valuable territory for moving people and drugs into the United States.

So far this year, the Sonora state police have reported nearly 40 homicides just in the Sonoyta area — with a population of about 18,000 — and another five wounded.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Fear grips Sonoyta: Shootouts plague Sonora border town

Juan Ortega in the snack stand outside his home in Desierto de Sonora. During one shootout, he and his wife hid under their bed. Photo by Kelly Prenel/Arizona Daily Star.

SONOYTA, Sonora — Anabel Cortez is afraid to leave her children home alone anymore.

After deadly gunbattles between rival organized crime groups started on April 30, Cortez took her children and fled her rural community outside this border town.

She is back home now that the violence has subsided, but not by choice.

“Where else am I going to go?” asks the mom of three elementary- and middle-school students.

Sonoyta and the rural communities to the east, all part of the municipality of Plutarco Elias Calles, have been the battleground for rival cartel factions vying to control valuable territory for moving people and drugs into the United States.

Sonoyta borders Lukeville, a crossing frequently used by Arizona travelers on their way to the beach town of Puerto Peñasco, commonly known as Rocky Point.

Cortez, 34, was among hundreds of people who fled Desierto de Sonora, less than 10 miles east of Sonoyta, after violence erupted last month. By some accounts, 28 gunmen and two innocent civilians were killed in the Sonoyta area from April 30 to May 5. The Sonora investigative state police reported six people killed on May 1 and another five on May 4. Residents said the criminals themselves started to warn people of upcoming shootouts and asked them to leave.

The fighting nearly paralyzed the town. Many parents stopped sending their kids to school. The city canceled all cultural and sports activities, including the traditional Fiesta de las Flores, an annual fair that is one of Sonoyta’s main events.

“We didn’t want to put citizens in danger in case of a violent incident, that we would be caught in the crossfire,” said Carlos Arvizu, Sonoyta’s city manager. “It was a preventive measure.”

The mayor, Julio Cesar Ramírez Vásquez, is no longer giving interviews, his office said, after one of the groups threatened him for speaking out.

So far this year, the Sonora state police have reported 38 homicides just in the Sonoyta area — with a population of about 18,000 — and another five wounded. May was the deadliest month, with 15 dead and another one injured, Sonora police data analyzed by the Arizona Daily Star show.

And those are just the officially reported numbers. By other accounts, it was 22 dead — including six burned bodies — and at least a handful of others injured that month. There also have been gunbattles between Sonora state police and gunmen that resulted in at least another 14 dead.

Local residents talk of many others who are missing and unaccounted for.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Rare conviction in case of molested crosser, 14

Jose Mancias-Flores

A man who pleaded guilty to molesting a 14-year-old border crosser faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced later this summer in Santa Cruz county.

The successful prosecution of José Mancinas-Flores, 24, is believed to be the the first one in the region in at least 15 years. The last couple of cases of immigrant rapes where the perpetrator was charged and punished involved Border Patrol agents in Cochise and Santa Cruz counties, Arizona Daily Star archives show.

The prosecution of a sexual assault case where the victim is a border crosser is very rare, local officials said. There are many pieces that have to fall in place: the victim has to come forward, the alleged perpetrator has to be caught, and jurisdiction has to be determined.

In this case, James Miller, the court-appointed defense attorney, had asked the judge to dismiss the case because the Border Patrol deported the other immigrants the victim was traveling with before he could talk to them. Perhaps they could have given him information to help prove that at least one of the incidents happened in Mexico, he said this week.

The Santa Cruz County Attorney’s Office and Miller had reached a plea agreement in September under which Mancinas-Flores faced a prison sentence of five to 10 years.

But Superior Court Judge Thomas Fink of Santa Cruz County not only refused to dismiss the case, he rejected the plea deal, saying it wasn’t enough time in prison.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Border deaths down as deadliest part of the year begins

Pieces of clothing and artifacts found on migrants who have died while trying to cross the desert through Southern Arizona are pictured above. Images of and information about remains not identified are entered in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, a resource center for missing people. Since 2001, more than 2,300 remains have been recovered in this area and about 36 percent of them have not been identified. Based on remains, the typical illegal crosser dying in the desert is male, about 30 years old and from central or southern Mexico. Photo: U.S. Department of Justice/Arizona Daily Star Photo Illustration.

April saw the fewest recovered border-crosser remains in more than a decade, but the triple-digit temperatures of the deadliest months have just arrived.

As of May 30 this fiscal year, the remains of 57 people trying to come into the United States through Southern Arizona have been recovered, data from the Pima County medical examiner show. But there were five bodies found in both April and May. That’s about half the number of bodies found during those months over the last decade.

The number of remains is not the actual number of people dying but the number of people found.

“We will continue to find remains for years to come even if nobody crosses,” said Gregory Hess, chief medical examiner in Pima County

As people tried to cross through more rugged terrain to avoid being caught, the number of border deaths jumped. Since 2001, at least 2,300 migrants have died in the attempt to cross through the desert.

Even with fewer migrants coming across the border, the rate at which people were dying didn’t decrease until fiscal year 2014. This year seems to be following that trend.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.