3/16: News from US-Mexico Border
By: US-Mexico Border Action Project
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1) Death Penalty Sought in Truck Bodies Case (Associated Press)
2) Juarez: Woman Said Not Part of Border Slayings (Associated Press)
3) More cameras to be installed along U.S.-Mexico border (Associated Press)
4) Desperate migrants giving kids to 'coyotes' (The Arizona Republic)
5) Border Patrol is cited for erosion (The San Diego Union-Tribune)
1) Death Penalty Sought in Truck Bodies Case
By JUAN A. LOZANO
.c The Associated Press
HOUSTON (AP) - Federal prosecutors said Monday they will seek the death
penalty against the driver of a truck in what authorities have called the nation's
deadliest smuggling tragedy. Seventeen immigrants suffocated in the truck and
two died later.
Tyrone Williams, 33, is accused of being behind the wheel of a
tractor-trailer transporting more than 70 undocumented immigrants from Mexico, Central
America and the Dominican Republic on the evening of May 13 from the Rio Grande
Valley to Houston.
Prosecutors say when the immigrants began succumbing to the trailer's
sweltering heat, Williams abandoned it at a truck stop in Victoria. Seventeen
immigrants were found dead inside the truck 100 miles southwest of Houston. Two
others died later.
The victims, including a 5-year-old Mexican boy, suffered from dehydration,
hyperthermia and suffocation.
``Where an act ... directly results in the single largest loss of life in any
contemporary smuggling operation, justice and the law demand the accused face
the ultimate punishment,'' U.S. Attorney Michael Shelby said.
Williams is the only one of those arrested who will face the death penalty.
His attorney, Craig Washington, said he didn't know if Williams was being
targeted unfairly for the death penalty and would leave the question to the jury.
``I truly believe that those who are on the jury will believe it would be
wrong to give Mr. Williams the death sentence,'' he said.
U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore set Monday - after granting three
extensions - as the deadline for prosecutors to decide whether they would seek the
Attorney General John Ashcroft made the final decision after local
prosecutors submitted their recommendation.
Trial is scheduled to begin June 7.
Fourteen people were indicted last year on charges of harboring and
transporting illegal immigrants. Nine were arrested, and five remain fugitives.
Of those arrested, seven were eligible for the death penalty for transporting
immigrants in a potentially fatal manner. Capital punishment had been ruled
out for six, leaving Williams as the only who had still been waiting to learn
his possible fate.
Williams, from Schenectady, N.Y., remains jailed in Houston.
03/15/04 23:38 EST
2) Juarez: Woman Said Not Part of Border Slayings
By OLGA R. RODRIGUEZ
.c The Associated Press
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) - Prosecutors said Friday a woman whose partially
clad body was found dumped in the desert this week did not appear to be part
of a decade-long string of about 100 sexually motivated killings.
Prosecutors cited traces of drugs, needle scars and other, unspecified
evidence, in differentiating the body found Wednesday from those of scores of other
young women killed in this rough Mexican border city since 1993.
``We think that, with the evidence obtained so far, that this crime does not
fit the profile of the recent (killings),'' said Maria Lopez Urbina, a special
prosecutor appointed by President Vicente Fox in January to look into the
Chihuahua Deputy Prosecutor Oscar Valadez Reyes said evidence suggests the
woman's death may be related to drug trafficking. Valadez wouldn't elaborate on
what had led investigators to this conclusion.
``It's to early to determine the cause for this homicide,'' said Valadez.
Federal prosecutors agreed to take over the case because of the possible drug
angle; simple homicide is a state offense.
Like most previous victims, Rebeca Contreras, 23, a mother of three, had been
strangled, an autopsy revealed. Her body was found Wednesday in the desert
near where the bodies of three young women who had been raped were found in
However, almost all the previous killings targeted very slender, dark-haired
factory workers or students between the ages of 15 and 19. They involved some
form of sexual abuse, but not drugs. The autopsy on Contreras' body revealed
no evidence of semen.
Prosecutors have long warned about the possibility of ``copycat'' killings,
in which others may imitate elements of the previous crimes for their own
03/12/04 22:13 EST
3) More cameras to be installed along U.S.-Mexico border
The Associated Press, March 12, 2004
DEMING (AP) -- Officials say technology could greatly improve efforts to
keep immigrants from illegally crossing into the United States from Mexico.
Michael Noonchester of New Mexico State University's Physical Science
Laboratory says the government is seeking to extend surveillance cameras
further along the border.
A U.S. Border Patrol spokeswoman, Irene Mortensen, says there are 22
cameras in West Texas and 20 in New Mexico.
She says the surveillance system provides 42 miles of coverage.
Mortensen says 18 additional camera sites are planned this year.
Noonchester said the cameras work in conjunction with motion and heat
sensors set up along the border.
The sensors alert agents who can then check the cameras to see whether it
was a person who triggered the sensor.
4) Desperate migrants giving kids to 'coyotes'
Abducted 14-month-old found; 3 suspects in custody
By Daniel González
The Arizona Republic (Phoenix), March 12, 2004
This week's kidnapping of a 14-month-old Mexican girl by three men at the
U.S. border highlights the dangers inherent in a growing trend.
U.S. and Mexican officials say rising numbers of undocumented immigrants
are trying every way possible to smuggle their children and babies into
Arizona through the desert and official ports of entry.
That was the case Tuesday when 19-year-old Irma Alberto Gabriel of
Michoacan, Mexico, was greeted at the international fence east of Douglas
by three men who beat her, kidnapped her 14-month-old daughter and fled
across the border into Arizona.
Authorities found the child in Douglas on Thursday and arrested three
smuggling suspects, said Rudy Bustamante, a spokesman for the federal
Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. He described the baby as OK
but was unaware if she was injured during the ordeal.
The suspects, whose names were not released, were in custody Thursday
night. Bustamante did not know what charges the three could face.
Alberto Gabriel had planned to meet with a smuggler who would get her into
the United States where she could reunite with her husband in Ohio.
Most parents without documents are trying to reunite with relatives already
in the United States and hire smugglers to help them get across the border
through the desert, officials said.
Immigration experts have said in the past that increased border enforcement
prevents the mostly male undocumented immigrants in the U.S. from returning
to Mexico for fear they won't be able to come back. That has resulted in
family members left behind trying to rejoin them. But increasingly, Mexican
parents are also handing over their children to smugglers to take them
through ports of entry with fake documents to avoid the risk of their
children crossing the desert, officials said.
Last year, 205 undocumented immigrants died crossing the desert, including
at least three under age 12.
"They believe it is less dangerous (than crossing through the desert), but
to me it is just as dangerous one way or the other," said Miguel Escobar
Valdez, Mexican consul in Douglas.
Already this year smugglers have been caught 39 times trying to take
children who weren't theirs through ports of entry, 22 in Douglas and 17 in
Nogales, Mexican officials said. Most of the smugglers have been Hispanic
women who are either U.S. citizens or legal permanent U.S. residents,
Mexican officials said.
Typically, relatives pay smugglers to take children through ports of entry
while they attempt to cross through the desert with plans to meet up with
their children once safely across the border.
"It is evident that more parents are not risking bringing them through the
desert and employing the services of 'coyotes' (smugglers)" to take them
through ports of entry, said Carlos Gonzalez, Mexican consul in Nogales.
U.S. immigration officials say they have encountered at least six recent
cases in which smugglers have kidnapped children in an attempt to extort
money from relatives. "As dramatic and heart-rending as a scenario this is,
for our agents this is a frequent occurrence," said Russell Ahr, spokesman
for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Phoenix.
In the past five months, the U.S. Border Patrol has caught 13,747 children
age 17 and younger, 6,296 more than in the same period a year earlier,
according to Agent Greg Maier, a spokesman for the Border Patrol's Tucson
Many of those children were found traveling with groups of undocumented
immigrants unaccompanied by their parents or relatives and were turned over
to the custody of Mexican officials, Maier said.
Jose Matus, director of Derechos Humanos, a Tucson-based human rights
organization, said the girl's kidnapping demonstrates how ruthless
smugglers have become.
"The more Border Patrol agents they put on the border, the more smugglers
charge and the more violent they get," Matus said.
5) Border Patrol is cited for erosion
Damage said to occur along double fencing
By Terry Rodgers
The San Diego (CA) Union-Tribune, March 12, 2004
State pollution regulators have cited the U.S. Border Patrol for failing to
control erosion along its double border fence east of the San Ysidro Port
A notice of violation issued March 5 by the San Diego Regional Water
Quality Control Board requires the Border Patrol to correct the problems
and submit proof of compliance within a month.
It is the second violation notice in as many years for lack of erosion
controls along the border. The previous problems were fixed, and no fine
The most recent citation was issued by regional board inspectors who found
numerous erosion problems occurring along manufactured slopes near a
section of double fencing that was installed sometime after 1999.
The violation reinforces recent criticism by the state Coastal Commission
that completing the final 3½ miles of a proposed triple fence along the
border could cause silt to damage the Tijuana River estuary, said Jim
Peugh, spokesman for the San Diego Audubon Society.
"I think this proves the Border Patrol either doesn't have the skill or the
money to prevent erosion coming from their projects," he said.
Peugh said he has personally documented other erosion problems west of
Interstate 5 not far from the Tijuana River channel, which empties into the
"There are places where there are erosion ruts several feet deep," he said.
"They simply bulldoze them and it starts all over again."
Border Patrol spokesman Angel Santa Ana said the violation notice is being
reviewed by the agency's legal staff and that a response will be submitted
to state regulators within the 30-day deadline.
"We have devoted over 1,600 hours to studying erosion patterns along the
border," Santa Ana said. "We don't haphazardly put these fences up."
State water-quality inspector Phil Hammer said he found numerous erosion
problems along three miles of secondary border fencing east of Interstate 5.
Hammer said he wasn't able to inspect the westerly portion of the double
fence because the terrain was extremely muddy.
Because of the extensive problems, the state water-quality agency is asking
the Border Patrol to submit a long-term erosion control plan for the entire
nine miles of double fencing, Hammer said.
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