'Deadliest migrant trail in U.S.' is right on Tucson's doorstep
I don't want to go on being just a root in the shadows,
vacillating, extended, shivering with dream,
down in the damp bowels of earth,
absorbing it, thinking it, eating it every day.
-Pablo Neruda from 'Walking Around'
Border issues in the news...
SELLS — Elena Toribio Lazaro and 10 others slipped across the border into Arizona at about 3 a.m. on a warm night in June.
Twelve hours later, as the sun beat down on the Baboquivari Valley and the temperature climbed to 105 degrees or more, the 24-year-old mother became sick and struggled to walk. A 28-year-old man she knew from their hometown of Acambay in central Mexico carried her for a while.
Then he set her down under a tree and placed a shirt over her for shade. Their guide and the rest of the group left the pair behind. When she stopped breathing, her companion went looking for help.
By the time U.S. Border Patrol agents made it to that tree that afternoon, she was dead.
Toribio died in a smuggling corridor that has claimed the lives of 229 border crossers since the beginning of fiscal 2000 — more than three times the average number of deaths in other segments of the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector, the Arizona Daily Star found in an analysis of 1,156 deaths recorded by the Border Patrol. Most died of the heat.
"It is the deadliest migrant trail in the United States," said Mike Wilson, a tribal member who sets up and maintains water stations on the Tohono O'odham Reservation.
The corridor is an 18-mile-wide swath of mesquite and cactus running from Mexico north through Sells, bordered on the east by the craggy Baboquivari Mountains and on the west by open desert. Agents know it as the "Little Tucson corridor," named for Ali Chukson, the O'odham village near where smugglers often pick up people who have trekked through the desert.
This route has been a deadly, double-edged sword for illegal border crossers in the last decade. Remote, sparsely populated, with a relatively small presence of Border Patrol agents and near foothills and canyons that offer cover, it has been an ideal route for avoiding detection. But those same characteristics mean people who get lost, sick or dehydrated face long odds of surviving.
"If you are out here in the middle of nowhere, it's all or nothing," said Sgt. Vincent Garcia of the Tohono O'odham Police Department. "You don't know where you are at, you are from another country, you don't know what the terrain is like, you don't know where the roads are at. ... You just need to keep heading north."
Read the full article by Brady McCombs and Enric Volante in the Arizona Daily Star