April 2, 2014
by Jonathan Clark
A 41-year-old man from El Salvador died this week after falling from the border fence in Nogales.
According to a statement from the U.S. Border Patrol, agents responded at approximately 5 a.m. on Sunday to a suspect attempting to illegally enter the United States.
In an emailed statement, Gerry Castro, EMS division chief at the Nogales Fire Department, said paramedics arrived at the dead end of Short Street and found the man unconscious, approximately 18 feet from the fence on a surface described as “cement/rocky ground.” Border Patrol agents said he had been there approximately 15 minutes.
The man was suffering “obvious trauma to head and face and blood was present to those areas,” Castro said, adding that “some deformity” was noted on the victim’s right hand.
After starting CPR, the NPD crew took the victim to Holy Cross Hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.
José Joaquín Chacón, the Salvadoran consul in Arizona, said an autopsy performed in Pima County showed that the man died of head trauma.
“Surely, the young man lost his balance and ended up hitting his head on the ground,” he said.
Another Salvadoran who was with the victim at the time was subsequently picked up by the Border Patrol, Chacón said, and he was allowed to interview the witness on Monday. The man confirmed that the two migrants had arrived at the border together, and that his companion had fallen while trying to climb the fence.
“It wasn’t, for example, an unfortunate case in which a Border Patrol agent was involved in firing a gun, or that there was an injury from a firearm or anything like that,” Chacón said. “There’s nothing like that.”
Consular officials have located the victim’s sister in California and a brother in El Salvador, but since the family members haven’t yet made a positive ID from the autopsy records, Chacón said, the consulate can’t release the man’s name.
However, he did say the man was from the coastal state, or “departamento,” of Usulatan, and consular records show that he had twice been deported from the United States.
“It’s one more tragedy in that the youth and people from our countries, in search of the American Dream, come and often find death,” he said.
Mass held nearby
The man fell from the fence a few hundred feet from the spot where Catholic bishops from across the county held a mass Tuesday to remember deceased migrants and call for Congress to enact immigration reform.
Chacón noted the coincidence.
“Yesterday, they were celebrating a mass precisely for the people who have died, and this Salvadoran died, by chance, on Sunday,” he said.
In 2011, the Border Patrol replaced the 10-foot-high landing mat fence that ran through Nogales with a stronger barrier measuring up to 30 feet tall. Since then, emergency personnel from the Nogales Fire Department have treated a number of fence-jumpers for broken ankles, legs and hips. In February 2012, a 44-year-old man from Oaxaca, Mexico died after falling from the fence on the west side of town and suffering head and neck injuries.
Last year, Border Patrol officials in Nogales floated the idea of hanging razor wire on the U.S. side of the fence, approximately 10 feet above ground, in hopes that it would discourage jumpers. However, the plan was scuttled after it was met with outcry in the community.