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U.S. sued over border deaths - families seek $42 mil


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  • U.S. sued over border deaths - families seek $42 mil

    this deserves

    U.S. sued over border deaths
    Kin of 14 victims seek $42 mil

    Luke Turf
    Tucson Citizen
    May. 8, 2003 12:00 AM

    Families of 14 undocumented immigrants who died in the Arizona desert two years ago are suing the federal government for $42 million.

    The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Tucson, said the deaths could have been prevented if a humanitarian group had been allowed to install water stations in the desert.

    The suit also said that an Interior Department crackdown in urban areas along the U.S.-Mexican border forced immigrants to risk crossing the desert in remote, dangerous areas.

    "It's a deliberate, conscious decision to force the migration into the desert," said Robin Hoover, president of Tucson-based Humane Borders. The group, which is not a litigant in the lawsuit, puts water in the desert to keep border crossers from dying of dehydration.

    The lawsuit said that a month before the 14 crossers died, Humane Borders requested permission to put its stations in the "exact area where plaintiffs died and were injured" in the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge east of Yuma. Hoover and the lawsuit said the request was denied.

    The suit, filed April 30, lists 17 plaintiffs identified as parents, siblings and children of the 14 men who died.

    The victims, all Mexicans ages 16 to 40, paid a "coyote," or smuggler, $1,400 each to lead them through the Arizona desert to a highway where they would be picked up and taken to Phoenix. They were told the trip would take two days.

    Instead, they were found dead of heat exposure May 23, 2001, after the smuggler abandoned them. The temperature was 115 degrees. Eleven migrants survived but suffered from severe dehydration and psychological damage.

    Jesus Lopez-Ramos, 21, the smuggler who left the men in the desert, pleaded guilty to more than 20 criminal counts in 2001 and is serving 16 years in prison. Another smuggler, Evodio Manilla-Cabrera, remains a fugitive. A third smuggler was among the dead.

    Florida farmer Francisco Vasquez-Torres, 47, was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in federal prison last month for arranging the crossing.

    He was not present when the men died, but a federal indictment said that in addition to participating in the smuggling plot, he encouraged illegal immigration for his own financial gain.

    About four months after the deaths, Cabeza Prieta and Department of Interior officials agreed to allow Humane Borders' light-blue flags to fly over existing water tanks used to water wildlife. The non-profit group now maintains 36 water supply stations in the southern Arizona desert and plans to build four more this year.

    "They did agree in the last analysis that water needs to be made available in some way, shape or form for the migrants who are perishing in the desert," Hoover said. "If you don't do these things, you have even more death and more expense to governments."

    More than 200 undocumented immigrants have died in the Arizona desert since the 14 were found two years ago. Now, with 100-degree temperatures approaching and with at least one death reported last month, Border Patrol officials are taking a new approach to the problem.

    Those measures include expanding search-and-rescue efforts, adding more rescue beacons, beefing up air patrols and placing Border Patrol encampments in remote areas of western Arizona desert to deter immigrants from crossing in those areas.

    "We are hoping to avert anything related to migrant deaths," Border Patrol Agent Frank Armarillas said last month.

    The Border Patrol also is working with Mexican authorities to step up a media campaign warning immigrants about the risks of crossing the desert.

    John Micheaels, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the federal government didn't respond in a timely matter to a notice of claim for damages filed May 7, 2002, by two Yuma-based attorneys.

    James Clark and James Metcalf, attorneys who filed the original claim, couldn't be reached for comment but also are listed as attorneys for the plaintiffs.

    Staff reporter Carlos Miller contributed to this article.
    I'll post, You argue.

  • #2
    this article sums up all that is wrong with this great nation
    May G-d bless you, keep you safe, and always keep you in his loving care


    • #3
      Send 'em all to France.......
      "When you guys get home and face an anti-war protester, look him in the eyes and shake his hand. Then, wink at his girlfriend, because she knows she's dating a *****."
      -Commanding General, 1st Marine Division


      • #4
        U roll the dice......U take ur chances.
        Two people can keep a secret if one of them is dead.


        • #5
          on a personal note..... i agree. you cross our borders illegally..... u take your chances.


          • #6
            I think this makes way more sense than many of you give credit for. Remember it takes a village.

            This reminds me of a project that I worked on in LA a few years ago, Humane Hoodlums.

            Our goal was to prevent all of the unnecessary deaths caused by gang and drug violence. We worked with LAPD and local charitable groups to provide gang memebers and drug dealers with bulletproof body armor.

            This helped create a dramatic drop in deaths among gang members and drug dealers. In 1998, there were 259 deaths, this dropped to 123 in 2002. While the problem hasnt been eradicated, it has certainly shown significant improvement.

            For those who may want to support this organization via cash or used body armor donations, please contact our website.

            Do your best, do what is right


            • #7
              Like I said...'Send 'em all to France'.
              "When you guys get home and face an anti-war protester, look him in the eyes and shake his hand. Then, wink at his girlfriend, because she knows she's dating a *****."
              -Commanding General, 1st Marine Division


              • #8
                I say we give them the money, and deduct it from the aid we send Mexico every year. Maybe Fox will do something about the immigration problem when it starts costing him.


                • #9
                  Why aren't the families suing the guy who left them for dead in the desert?

                  Ooops...silly me, he probably doesn't have any money and they don't know who he is, anyway.

                  I'm sorry those folks died and all, but they made the choice to cross our border illegally and they unfortunately paid the ultimate price. We shouldn't pay their families for their illegal and deadly mistake.
                  "Americans don't want a mentally unstable president; he might start a war or something." - Bill Maher


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