La prensa

Remembering those gone and bracing for what’s ahead

Created: 23 July, 2010
Updated: 13 September, 2023
3 min read

Video: Ceremonia TKT

    Activists, rescuers and reporters caravanned under the piercing sun as it heated the air, making it difficult to move or breathe comfortably. Alongside the group a few state police men guarded the area, for fear of attacks by criminals praying on those who enter the paths used by immigrants on their way into the U.S.

    Alongside the trails, rescuers find hats, jewelry, clothes, even a children’s backpack, reminding us all that immigrants of all ages venture into this desolate place where in summer days like this, temperatures can reach 110 degrees.

    Just a kilometer into the trail by Tecate, we reach the place where ranchers found the bodies of two young men: Cruz Alan y José Enrique Sánchez Vázquez, shot and left for dead in shallow graves after a group of traffickers kidnapped them and asking their family for ransom.

    Their remains were found six weeks after their murder, but it took four long months before authorities gave their remains to the parents, and only after the media and human rights activists made the case public.

    “What I ask for now is justice of the Baja California authorities” said the mother on the phone during the ceremony, “we only got our sons back after begging them to help us, and they conceded without even giving me a document or a phone number where I can follow the murder investigation”.

    Just last week, right before the anniversary of this case, two other immigrant kidnapping cases have come to light, showing the increase of organized crime along the border, mixed with the heat and the anti-immigrant sentiment in the US that has led to a neo-nazi group to be posted by the California border.

    In the first kidnapping case, an immigrant managed to escape from a group of men who held him and nine others captive. In a second case, a victim also escaped from two young women who kidnapped two men after promising them they would cross the border safely inside a vanilla colored Escalade.

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    But what about those who could not escape and go to the authorities? Most cases are not only unresolved but un-registered. The responsibility of finding those gone missing, falls into the hands of Rafael Hernandez and his group, Desert Angels, of over 80 volunteer rescuers, working along the Arizona and California border.

    “Word gets around and families start calling from all over Mexico and the US to tell us about their missing loved one, some families don’t hear from them for six weeks” Hernandez explains, “they sometimes tell us about children, pregnant women or elderly men who have a slim chance of survival.”

    Just this month, Hernandez and his group have rescued 60 immigrants alive. All of them had wandered into the dessert after being abandoned by the smugglers.

    At that same time, nine bodies have been found along the trails, including a pair of young men whose skin was literally charred off their backs when they found them, seeking shelter under some shallow trees.

    With more security along the border, routes have changed. When immigrants would have walked 20 miles, now they have to walk over a 100 miles, taking them three to five days.

    “We are seeing most of the rescues occurring in Arizona, but we are sure these problems will start picking up in California as more and more get deported and they try to go back in the scorching heat of the coming months,” said Hernandez.

    “We will, sadly, have a lot of work trying to prevent deaths, but also trying to find the bodies of those killed by heat or crime, we are not just going to leave them out there, forgotten,” he promises.

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