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Mexican Migrants to Avoid Civilian Patrols

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-4918147,00.html From the Associated Press Mexican Migrants to Avoid Civilian Patrols Wednesday April 6,
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 6, 2005
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      http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-4918147,00.html

      From the Associated Press

      Mexican Migrants to Avoid Civilian Patrols

      Wednesday April 6, 2005 8:46 PM

      By OLGA R. RODRIGUEZ

      Associated Press Writer

      AGUA PRIETA, Mexico (AP) - The number of Mexican
      migrants trying to sneak into the United States
      through the Arizona border has dropped by half since
      hundreds of American civilians began guarding the area
      earlier this week, say Mexican officials assigned to
      protect their citizens.

      But that doesn't mean the migrants have given up. Most
      remain determined to enter the United States and say
      they will simply find other places to cross.

      Before Minuteman Project volunteers began patrolling,
      Mexican officials encountered at least 400
      undocumented migrants daily. On Monday, the second day
      Minutemen were present, they spotted just 198, said
      Bertha de la Rosa of Grupo Beta, a Mexican
      government-sponsored group that discourages people
      from crossing illegally and aids those stranded in the
      desert.

      ``The fact that we're not seeing them here doesn't
      mean they are not trying to cross,'' said de la Rosa,
      the group's coordinator in Agua Prieta, a town across
      the border from Douglas, Ariz. ``They say they will
      look for another place or wait awhile - but they are
      not giving up.''

      Grupo Beta, along with armed state police officers,
      began patrolling the Mexican side of the border on
      Sunday.

      Jose Luis Mercado is among those determined to cross.

      Mercado, a farm worker from central Mexico state, was
      one of 10 migrants who walked through the desert all
      night Monday and early Tuesday before they were
      abandoned by the smuggler they had paid to get them
      across the border.

      ``He just said it was too risky to cross and to wait
      for him, but he never came back,'' Mercado said.

      Mercado, like most migrants trying to cross into the
      United States from this dusty border city, had been
      unaware of the Minuteman Project, despite extensive
      news media coverage of the group.

      He and his companions were resting in a ditch littered
      with plastic bottles, clothes and empty tuna cans when
      they were spotted by Grupo Beta agent Hector Salazar.

      ``There are a lot of people trying to catch you,''
      Salazar told the migrants as a small plane and then a
      U.S. border patrol helicopter flew over the
      barbed-wire fence dividing the border.

      ``It's not only border patrol, but also armed
      civilians,'' Salazar said. ``Don't give them the
      pleasure of detaining you.''

      But the migrants declined Grupo Beta's offer for a
      discounted bus ticket back home. They vowed to attempt
      the crossing as many times as it took to make it into
      the United States.

      ``I'm going to risk it and try somewhere else,'' said
      Mercado, 40, who has five children and earns $60 a
      week. ``I have no other option. I want to be able to
      pay for my children's education so they don't have to
      go through all this.''

      Pro-migrant activists say people unable to cross in
      Agua Prieta have begun arriving at shelters in
      Nogales, about 80 miles west, and in Altar, a town
      about 125 miles southwest.

      Minutemen organizers initially promised as many as 800
      volunteers would participate in the monthlong
      migrant-monitoring project at one time or another.
      They say about 480 have shown up thus far. There was
      no way to independently verify that number.
      Authorities were not keeping count.

      Francisco Garcia, a volunteer for Altar's lone
      shelter, said most migrants dismiss the Minutemen as
      ``crazy people'' - but for migrants' rights activists,
      the situation is worrisome.

      ``For us, it's clear to see things could get out of
      control because those in the migration business are
      not easily intimidated,'' Garcia said. ``We're afraid
      an aggression could escalate into an international
      incident.''

      The Minutemen, some of whom are armed, say their
      purpose is partly to draw attention to the high influx
      of migrants across the Arizona-Mexico boundary,
      considered the most porous stretch of the 2,000-mile
      U.S.-Mexico border. Of the 1.1 million illegal
      migrants caught by the U.S. Border Patrol last year,
      51 percent crossed at the Arizona border.

      But in Mexico and Central America, the volunteers are
      seen as ``hunters of illegals'' or racists.

      ``They have a right to patrol their border, but I only
      want to cross to find work,'' said Vidal Sanchez, a
      26-year-old farmer who was walking through Sonora's
      scrub-covered desert Tuesday.

      ``If they detain us, I'm going to tell them I need to
      work. I think they'll understand.''

      ----

      On the Net:

      Grupo Beta:
      http://www.gob.mx/wb2/egobierno/egob-grupo-beta

      Minuteman Project: http://www.minutemanproject.com
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