August 31, 2010

SOME FOLKS JUST REALLY WANT TO COME HOME:

Migrants say Arizona worth risk of crossing (AMANDA LEE MYERS, 08/31/2010, AP)

Deaths of illegal immigrants in Arizona have soared this summer toward their highest levels since 2005 — a fact that has surprised many who thought that the furor over the state’s new immigration law and the 100-plus degree heat would draw them elsewhere along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.

But at the Pima County morgue in Tucson, Ariz., the body bags are stacked on stainless-steel shelves from floor to ceiling. A refrigerated truck has been brought in to handle the overflow at the multimillion dollar facility.

In July, 59 people died — 40 in the first two weeks when nighttime temperatures were the hottest in recorded history, hovering around the low 90s. The single-month death count is second only to July 2005, when 68 bodies were found.

Of this July’s deaths, 44 were on the Tohono O’Odham Nation, a reservation the size of Connecticut that shares 75 miles of Arizona’s border with Mexico. The tribe is opposed to humanitarian aid on its lands, believing it invites violence.

Twenty-two more people died in the first 30 days of August.

Even with the prospect of a torturous death, and the bitter wrath they face in Arizona, immigrants, including Ortega, say the state’s vast, sparsely populated terrain is still the best place for border jumpers.

“In Tijuana, you have two walls that you have to get over,” said Ortega, who first came across in 1976 to work in West Coast agricultural fields. “This is much easier here. You just have to watch out for the snakes. That’s why I prefer to walk in the daytime and not at night.”

He admits he’s afraid when he crosses, but states flatly, “It’s worth the risk.”


Posted by Orrin Judd at August 31, 2010 6:50 PM
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