Mexican Migrants to Avoid Civilian Patrols
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
``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
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
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.''
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