America's Voice En Español »
Alfonso Martinez Sanchez, a 39 year-old father of five, died while trying to cross the Arizona desert last month. He was attempting to reunite with his family after Border Patrol arrested and deported him to Mexico.
As the North Carolina Times reports, the tragic story began when Martinez signed for a letter as an employee at a local liquor store while he was filling in for the store clerk, who had run out to deal with an emergency. The police officer asked to see I.D., and when Martinez could only show his Mexican I.D. card, he was turned over to Border Patrol.
On the afternoon of April 20, a Friday, Martinez began his fatal journey trying to return to his wife and children. He agreed to pay a “coyote,” a smuggler, more than $3,000 to help him cross the border through Arizona. He paid $250 worth of Mexican pesos before the trip and agreed to pay $2,900 when he arrived in the U.S., his wife said.
After a full day of walking through the desert, Martinez began to feel sick and fell behind. The group of about 20 people, including the smuggler, kept going.
One man, Isaac Jimenez Hernandez, tried to help, Garcia said. Jimenez asked the smuggler to wait, but he didn’t, and the group left Martinez behind, Garcia said.
Jimenez found a cellphone in Martinez’s pocket and tried to call 911 but there was no signal, Garcia said. He walked two hours before he was able to find a cell signal and call for help.
When Border Patrol agents arrived, they arrested Jimenez, Garcia said. He told them that there was a sick man and offered to lead them back to him but they did not. They told him that other agents would look for him, Garcia said
Two days later, when Jimenez was released in Mexicali, Mexico, he called Martinez’s family and told them the story.
In a corner of their small Vista apartment, the Martinez family built a memorial with a large photo of Martinez on a table with flowers and candles.
Martinez came to the United States from his native San Luis Potosi in central Mexico more than 20 years ago. He worked at a Vista supermarket as a butcher for many years before he was laid off two years ago because of his immigration status, Garcia said.
“He was a good man,” Garcia said. “A hard worker. He never hurt anybody.”
An NPR article on border crossing deaths notes that the death toll has been a steady 200 bodies a year, even as there’s been a decrease in illegal border crossings.
“In other words, the rate of deaths is higher. It’s become more dangerous to cross,” writes the author of the piece, Ted Robbins – even though President Obama has increased enforcement at the border, and has boasted about doubling the number of agents since 2004.
But with deaths at the border of immigrants who should never have been deported in the first place, what is there to boast about?