Outrage Follows Migrant Deaths in Arizona

The deaths of three young men in the Arizona desert last month have prompted Mexican non-governmental organizations to renew demands for actions and changes from the Mexican and U.S. governments. In a statement signed by scores of human rights, migrant, labor, civic, and faith-based organizations, the groups demanded meaningful policy shifts at a time when current U.S. legislative proposals for tighter security amount to a “virtual state of war on the border.”

The call followed the June deaths of the Plutarco de Jesus brothers in Maricopa County, Arizona. According to the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center of the Mountain, a longtime advocacy organization based in Tlapa, Guerrero, 24-year-old Inocencio Plutarco de Jesus was working as a farm laborer in Sonora when he invited his younger brothers, 18-year-old Macario and 15-year-old Humberto, to accompany him to the U.S. The brothers were from Cuanacaxtitlan, Guerrero, a small indigenous community in the Costa Chica region of the southern state.

Instead of finding new jobs and lives in El Norte, the brothers encountered death in the Arizona desert. The Guerrero State Secretariat of Migrant and International Affairs blamed the deaths on dehydration.

According to Tlachinollan and its allies:

“Since the beginning of the militarization in 1994, the border that Inocencio, Macario and Humberto crossed has become a fatal trap for more than 5,000 migrants that died in the desert on the route north, and the number of dead has been greater than the fallen along the Berlin Wall from 1962 to 1989,  which is the unspeakable counterpart of the beginning of the North American Free Trade Agreement.”

The groups criticized the inclusion of $46 billion for border security in the U.S. Senate’s immigration reform bill as beneficial to “the same contractors that profited from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars” but detrimental to the migrants who will be further pushed into dangerous crossing zones.

In a broader context, the statement contended that population movements from places like the Costa Chica constitute a “forced migration” impelled by marginalization, laissez faire economics, militarization, paramilitarization, ecological devastation, and the lack of respect for self-determination and autonomy.

“Nonetheless, the causes and consequences of internal migration and international migration have not been a priority for the three levels of (Mexican) government,” according to the signatories.

The pro-migrant organizations urged Mexico’s Foreign Ministry and other relevant branches of government to increase outreach to migrant families, promote genuine “local development alternatives” and pursue policies favoring progress on the economic, education and security fronts.

The statement also called for strengthening the Guerrero State Secretariat of Migrant and International Affairs as a governmental institution capable of serving the “diverse necessities” of the migrant population, especially the sector from indigenous communities.

Besides Tlachinollan, the organizations signing the statement included the Popular Assembly of Migrant Families, the All Rights for All National Human Rights Network, Casa del Migrante Saltillo, Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Human Rights Center, Cereal, the Women’s Human Rights Center (Chihuahua City), the Sinaloa Civic Front, and the Collective against Torture and Impunity, among many others.

Additional sources: El Sur, July 12, 2013. Article by Lourdes Chavez. Infonogales.com, July 9, 2013.

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