Arizona: A Migrant’s Rescue


Javier* was three months old and nursing at his mother’s breast the first time he entered the United States without documents 27 years ago. His family settled in Chicago where Javier grew up and graduated from high school. Fluent in English with a thick Chicago accent, Javier did not know Mexico before he was deported to Guerrero.

CPTers found Javier hobbling around the desert, carrying a jug of his own urine from which he had been drinking for the day. Only raw skin remained on his blistered feet. He was wandering about 100 yards from an encampment of Minutemen – armed vigilantes on the lookout for migrants.

Southern Arizona has a long history of vigilante violence against migrants. In the 1970s, the Hannigan brothers tortured migrants with cattle irons in Cochise County. Last summer, a lone vigilante held seven migrants at gunpoint. Despite this unlawful detention, the vigilante was not arrested. The Minutemen recently reported detaining migrants while waiting for the Border Patrol to arrive. Stories of the “caza migrantes” (migrant hunters), as they are known in Mexico, strike fear into both documented and undocumented Mexican-Americans along the border.

With Javier’s health, and life, clearly at risk, he was whisked into a car and taken to a nearby migrant shelter for treatment. There, he took a long shower and was able to use a walker to get around. He wore a tired smile that evening. The next morning Javier mentioned that he had not slept well. “I could not get the Border Patrol helicopters out of my head,” he said. “I think I’m traumatized. I almost died out there!”

Legislation currently under consideration by the U.S. Congress would consider both Javier and those who rescued him felons.

*Not his real name

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