TSON News | Immigrants are refugees from drug wars

Immigrants are refugees from drug wars

Recent immigrants to this nation have been called many things, yet one term has been missing from the vernacular that may be the most accurate.


An armed gang freed more than 50 inmates from the prison in central Mexico on Saturday, including two dozen with ties to a powerful drug cartel.

Put aside the political rhetoric for now and consider yourself as a human being of undisclosed nationality.

Now imagine that your government is corrupt and that foreign multi-national corporations and drug cartels are in charge. Violence is a common occurrence and your family not only has to worry about starvation, but about being assassinated.

To add to this, a few hours to the north is a safe haven, where border violence stops and does not seep over, and your kids have a chance of not going to bed hungry at night, but most importantly you are no longer in a drug cartel rivalry zone.

What would you do? Would you get the hell out of Dodge ASAP, or would you file paperwork at the corrupt government office, wait ten years, pay thousands of dollars, and maybe have a chance of leaving then?


Any head of any household would put their family’s safety first, and that includes you. Safety first is a common phrase here in the United States, so wouldn’t we apply this to our own families first beyond the workplace?

Violence in Mexico is a direct result of American’s demand for drugs. You don’t need to be reminded how dangerous things are, but in case you haven’t heard the latest, consider the following from the Nogales International newspaper:

All spoke on condition of anonymity, some fearing for their jobs because they’re not allowed to speak to the press, others for their lives.

Beltran Leyva's drug cartel are presented to press at the headquarters of the Mexican Navy.

The fight in Tubutama is between the Sinaloa Cartel, headed by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, and a faction of the Beltrán Leyva Cartel, whose leader, Arturo, was killed in a gun battle with the Mexican Navy in the southern city of Cuernavaca last December. His brother, Hector Beltrán, has reportedly taken over the cartel’s activities.

Beltrán’s lieutenant in northern Sonora is identified by law enforcement sources as a man known as “El Gilo,” and he has established himself in Tubutama with an unknown number of gunmen. According to U.S. Border Patrol sources, Gilo’s gunmen confronted the Mexican Army on June 12 in Cerro Prieto, near Tubutama.

Rivaling Gilo is a network of Sinaloa Cartel factions from the towns of Altar and Caborca. They include a Santa Ana-based gang called Los Jabáli. This gang was headed by a Sinaloa Cartel henchman, Jose Vásquez Villagrana, who was arrested last February.

Waiting in ambush

According to a Sinaloa Cartel associate, at about 9 p.m. on July 1, a convoy of about 50 vehicles affiliated with the cartel left the cities of Altar and Caborca, heading for Tubutama.

The killers had painted large white X’s on their SUVs, pickup trucks and station wagons, to identify themselves to each other for the attack. Gilo’s men ambushed them on a sharp curve along the winding road, killing 21 of the Sinaloa Cartel’s gunmen. Another nine were wounded in the attack.

That’s just the violence. What about finding food to feed your family?

Meanwhile, Gilo’s men are growing desperate, running out of supplies in Tubutama. A week before the gunfight, the Tubutama public works director, Gerardo González Méndez, and the town comptroller, Sergio Vázquez Díaz, were gunned down outside of Nogales, Sonora while trying to take a barrel of gasoline back up to Tubutama. There are no gas stations in the hills.

One Saríc resident now living in Arizona, who asked that his name not be used because he fears for his family in Sonora, said the two towns are being slowly devastated as the Sinaloans try to choke off the Beltráns.

No Pepsi but plenty of Coke.

“There’s no food in the stores. You’re not going to find any food there. Tubutama is beautiful, I love this town but it’s bad right now,” he said. “In Saric, there’s about 70 homes that are empty.”

He says his uncle in Tubutama is selling the cattle he owned. “He’s trying to come over here but he has no papers. He doesn’t know how to live outside of Tubutama.”

The drug violence has left nearly 23,000 people dead in Mexico since 2007. Much of that violence has propagated itself in major border cities like Ciudad Juárez or in the state of Sinaloa. Small towns like Tubutama have not seen much of the drug violence.

“You got to understand,” the resident said. “These are tiny towns. In 1978, two people were killed. That was big news. Now, they’re living it.”

One common phrase I hear a lot when people talk about SB1070 is “if you don’t like it, then leave.” Well now apply this to your family living in a violence zone… “if you don’t like it, then leave.”

And leave they have. From NAFTA, to huge agribusiness coming in a disrupting farm operations, and now to the violence south of the border, all of these have direct connections to the United States, including the fact that guns are forbidden in Mexico and thus they must all come from the US, usually from those huge gun shows at convention centers you see all the time. Why does any person need to buy guns in bulk, especially assault weaponry. You can pretend it is for sports, but any deer or animal hunted with those weapons will turn out as shredded beef!

Unfortunately the animals being hunted are human beings, and gun corporations are making a killing in profits.

Either way, we love our Second Amendment here and we also love our drugs. Combine guns, drugs, and poverty and you have a trifecta for the perfect storm, and the resulting tsunami is the wave of human migrants you see coming into this country seeking a better life.

The argument that they should come legally becomes moot once we consider that these humans coming here are nothing less than refugees seeing asylum from a war zone. There is no ten year waiting time – they will seek safe asylum for their families now. What are those words on the Statue of Liberty again?

Out of sight and out of our minds

Even more despicable is what happens to these refugees seeking safety. The morality here is nothing less than wack!

Wackenhut that is.

Wackenhut deportation buses

If you have ever seen a Wackenhut bus around Tucson, that’s the new deportation bus. What happens to a person that is deported? This is an important thing to consider if you want to have any chance of understanding the humanity of the problem.

(Article continued below)

If the person has a family of US born citizen children back at home, and Three Sonorans personally knows of cases of this where the father gets deported even though his children are citizens and are now without their breadwinner, they will immediately try to attempt to enter this country again.

For just one moment, consider the humanity here. If you were separated from your family, from your children, what would you do?

What would Mel Gibson do? This is a common scenario in many of his movies. It’s a human scenario. If you separate families there will be a problem to deal with, and if you multiply this by a million, then you got a major problem on your hands. A morally reprehensible problem at that.

But what about those who were deported and don’t immediately return, but are now in a foreign land if they aren’t from Mexico. Even Canadians in Arizona get deported to Mexico. But let me present you with the following dilemma. What happens when you deport 170,000 people and simply drop them off in the city of Nogales?

In a dusty triangle just south of the Mariposa Port of Entry, a group of Mexican men sit on plastic chairs at a makeshift camp, watching a World Cup soccer match on TV as darkness approaches on June 30.

Kino Comedor for the deported migrant

The U.S. Border Patrol picked up the men in Arizona, California and even Canada, they said, and deported them to Nogales, Sonora. The majority are originally from the Mexican interior and strangers to this border city.

Until recently, the camp welcomed deportees like these with coffee, soup and bread, a bit of first aid, and information about food, shelter and bus fares before sending them on their way. But this spring, the camp, run by the Sonoran migrant agency DGAMI (Direccion General de Atencion a Migrantes Internacionales) along with the Tucson organization No More Deaths (NMD), began to offer lodging.

And so when the soccer game ends, the men will pile onto tidy bunk beds in a trailer in the rear of the camp. If women and children need lodging, they get the bunks and the single men sleep on bedrolls on the ground.

The camp added the trailer after a flood of deportations overwhelmed the shelters of the border city, sending migrants spilling out into the streets in search of a place to sleep. Some even bedded down in local cemeteries, where they became easy prey for muggers.

The situation turned so bad that in early June, Mayor Jose Angel Hernandez Barajas appealed to the federal government for help in coping with the migrant influx.

“It’s a crisis for Nogales,” said Alejandro Palacios, spokesman for the mayor.

Since then, migrant advocates say, the pressure has eased, thanks in large part to the Mexican Internal Repatriation Program (MIRP), a seasonal effort run by the Department of Homeland Security and the Mexican government that flies deportees from Tucson to Mexico City during the hottest months of the year. At a comedor (dining hall) run by the Kino Border Initiative, the number of meals served is down more than two-thirds, according to the Rev. Sean Carroll. And Valente Camacho, owner of the Transportes Fronterizas de Sonora bus company, said the 103 migrants who slept at his firm’s small shelter in June was three times less than in July.

But with the MIRP program set to end Sept. 28, those who serve migrants in Nogales, Sonora say they are bracing for another migrant overload. They blame the springtime boom on a general increase in Border Patrol deportations, a Border Patrol program that deports illegal Mexican immigrants caught in other parts of the country through Nogales, and the reality that many deportees now stay in Nogales rather than moving on.

Many of the deported migrants – hundreds of miles from their homes and families – have nowhere to go at night and end up sleeping in the streets of Nogales.

If the repatriation flights stop and these other phenomena continue, advocates say, the overflow problems will return.

“It (the number) will go back up again, that’s for sure,” NMD volunteer Sarah Roberts said, adding that she hoped the numbers would drop again in late fall, when agricultural jobs in the U.S. taper off.

Border Patrol statistics show that agents caught more illegal immigrants in the Tucson Sector over the first eight months of the current fiscal year than in the previous year, said Omar Candelaria, special operations supervisor, in June. From Oct. 1, 2009 through May 31, 2010, the sector reported 170,000 apprehensions, compared to 164,000 the year before.

Human rights

At present, the Mexican government offers limited assistance to deportees and the U.S. authorities are just beginning to explore the possibility of working with Mexico to ensure that it provides appropriate care and options for recently deported migrants. Unfortunately, tales of abuse by U.S. immigration authorities, human traffickers and smugglers, and local Mexican officials are not uncommon in Nogales. Some migrants report that U.S. Border Patrol used unnecessary force during their apprehension.

“[U.S. Border Patrol] grabbed me and shook me, and kicked me in the leg. I didn’t do anything to provoke them. Now …. my leg is hurt,” said Hector, at the Kino facility in Nogales.

Other migrants arrive at the KBI center with complaints that they were dropped off by U.S. Border Patrol in the middle of the night, without proper clothing or blankets to brave the desert climate. Even more distressing, migrants report that U.S. immigration authorities have refused to provide migrants with water or sufficient food during deportation.

The town of Nogales is also a hub for smuggling gangs and criminal human trafficking enterprises that prey on migrants and exploit their vulnerability.

One migrant, Susanne, recounted a story of abuse and exploitation at the hands of an unscrupulous smuggler while trying to cross the border to visit her mother who lives in North Carolina.

“As I was crossing I was robbed and beaten by the coyote I hired,” Susanne said.

When she arrived at the KBI women’s shelter her face, arms and shoulders and back were visibly swollen and bruised. “My mouth is so swollen I can’t even eat,” she said. Susanne stayed in the shelter run by the Sisters of the Eucharist for several weeks and made a strong recovery.

A drug war on the Mexican side of the border has killed thousands of people this year alone. Deported migrants, particularly women and children, are particularly vulnerable to the rising violence in the Mexican border communities. As the violence from the Mexican drug war increases, local authorities in the Mexican Border States have directed little attention at the special vulnerability of the deported migrants stranded within their communities.

Read more at The Refugee Voice.

Closing thought

A recently deported girl and her mom at the comedor. Credit Kent Kessinger

Three Sonorans visited El Paso in February and remembers looking south across the border from the safety of American soil. Within eyesight was a whole different world, Ciudad Juarez, where over 3,000,000 people were living in fear and in danger. The week I was there was the week of a mass murder, and while gossip was alive, on the US side there wasn’t much fear as we walked the streets.

Tucson isn’t much different. We are only an hour away from a distant land. Gruesome and atrocious murders are taking place right there, in a desert not much different than ours, in a landscape we might confuse for our own, but because of many factors, life is completely different. Death is a constant companion as one walks through the day.

People in this country of excess will not understand what life is like just a short hour away. If the choice is between dodging bullets, assassination squads, and food shortages, with no bright future for your kids, and between a short hour trip north, albeit without the proper documentation; the choice is clear.

Anyone of us would do the same. It’s the smart thing to do. But we don’t appreciate our privilege. We are still born into a caste system that determines your entire future.

Contrary to Arizona governor Jan Brewer’s xenophobic lies about most immigrants being drug mules, the truth is that most immigrants are refugees of a drug war, and come here seeking a better life in the United States.

While we wait for comprehensive immigration reform, in the meantime what we really need to do is to grant the immigrants here refugee status with the right to asylum, as protected by international and federal law.

It’s the right thing to do.

47 comments on “Immigrants are refugees from drug wars
  1. what a crock!  how about applying the illegal policy of the country of origin.  my heart bleeds.  NOT for criminals, no matter the crime.  next thing will be ok to steal  from a store because you are hungry, thristy, need a smoke, etc..

      • Care to specify who “stole” oil from other countries?  (Yes, Leftfield, you can jump in on this, too).

        Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions here, but I suspect you’re saying that America has stolen oil from other countries in the past—but you don’t want to come out and actually say it.

        If you DO mean America, whose oil did we steal and when?

        • Perhaps you prefer that American oil corporations took oil from impoverished nations at an extreme discount, such as from Nigeria…
          and I see your point. How can we steal oil from Iraq if we are in charge behind the scenes… Americans are experts at legalizing theft using the law, such as Manifest Destiny and broken treaties with the Native Americans.

  2. Interview conducted 24 April 2010.  H—– R—– of Mexico, who lived in Chicago for thirteen years and in El Paso prior to that for eight years, and who has a ten year old daughter in Chicago, reported that he was apprehended while walking in the desert on Tuesday 20 April at approximately 4am and was held in Casa Grande until around 9pm Thursday 22 April.  Mr. R—– reported that in custody agents dealing with him—in particular one with the last name C—–—were abusive, racist, and rude.  At one point Mr. R—– attempted to intervene on behalf of other detainees, as the guards were throwing food at them. When he spoke to Agent C—– to say that this behavior was inappropriate, Agent C—– ordered other guards to handcuff Mr. R—– and move him into solitary confinement.  He was held alone in a room with handcuffs on and no shoes in extremely cold temperatures for ten hours.One of many such interviews with recent deportees in Nogales, Son.

  3. Holy Cow! This liberal post screams let the drug war immigrants into the country but does not tell why we should fight the drug war. My solution is not pretty. if we dont it will spill more and more into this country. (Like it isnt now!!!!!)
    We are in this same war. Its just that the American public doesnt even know we are in it. (At least the ones on the east coast plus the dope heads in Portland)

    Now watch all of the potheads chime in on this soon. And the bleeding hearts.

  4. This is not right at all. Stop calling this defending human rights. The Mexican citizens are drug lords, gangsters, murderers, ruthless people and you people want to let them in our country to kill our children too.

    • The Mexican citizens are drug lords, gangsters, murderers, ruthless people

      To stereotype: the process of attributing particular traits, characteristics, behaviors or values to an entire group or category of people, who are, as a consequence, monolithically represented; includes the process of negative stereotyping.

      It is the tendency of the simple-minded.

    • fear is usually the first response to ignorance. But, I wont be too hard on you. I’m sure you don’t possess the cognitive ability to even begin to understand how ridiculous what you just said actually is.

  5. Under the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees from 1951, a refugee is a person who (according to the formal definition in article 1A of this Convention), “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country”.[1] The concept of a refugee was expanded by the Convention’s 1967 Protocol and by regional conventions in Africa and Latin America to include persons who had fled war or other violence in their home country.

  6. Our army is on the wrong side of the border to have any real effect. The mex gov’t (if they weren’t profiting from the drug trade and their citizens misery) should be inviting a real army (ours) to move in and crush these animals. Burn the fields, shoot to kill and give the countryside back to the people.

  7. After Brewer took office few noticed that her top 4 aides were Symington retreads – the circle was closed. Here is an interview from yesterday Thurs., on what has befallen Arizona: A new article by Harper’s Magazine Washington editor Ken Silverstein argues that Arizona has become a laboratory not just for immigration policy, but a broad range of issues. It’s a place, he writes, where the Tea Party is arguably the ruling party, and should the Republicans retake nationwide power, “the country might start to resemble the right-wing desert that Arizona has become.”

    Here is a different slant on Brewer the enforcer in an April article from Greg Palast – this is worth a look: “Beginning after the 2004 election, under Brewer’s command, no less than 100,000 voters, overwhelmingly Hispanics, were blocked from registering to vote. In 2005, the first year of the Great Brown-Out, one in three Phoenix residents found their registration applications rejected.”

  8. Good point. Many are fleeing from the threat of violence as a result of war. They should be given refugee status according to international law. “The law’s the law” right?  

    • how about those of us that live out here in the desert north of the border.What about all the campsites i find with empty backpacks and satchels? Let me guess these are the remnants of mules trafficking Tortilla chips?  The border is there for a reason and there is a process for immigration.  Refugees my rear end. If that is the case then i am a refugee of a land being invaded by illegal foreigners. Taking our jobs, financial aids, and putting added stress on our healthcare system. If you want to help those who need it most, look inward first. I see Americans that need food, lodging, and medical attention everywhere.

        • Just to be clear—are you saying that neither the Tohono O’odham or Yaqui ever displaced other people themselves, from the land they now occupy? 

          I bring this up because, many Native Americans neglect to mention that their tribes displaced—-often forcibly—-other tribes from their current lands, albeit hundreds of years ago. 

          • They were here a lot longer than that century or so of American presence. Their ancestors the Hohokam go back even further.
            The main point here is only that this land only belongs to the most powerful party, and not the original inhabitants… I’d like to think we are all welcome here as immigrants, yet some people think they own the place!

  9. People are right we should do something!  Let’s establish refugee camps along the border, guarded by the UN!!!  Then since there is a war, complete with refugees our military should begin armed patrols of the border.  Call them what ever you want they are here illegally.  I’m all for limited, legal immigration but remember a piece of land can only support so many people, for so long. 

  10. What a bunch of trash news reporting.  What part of illegal do you not understand.  You or your family must be illegal to print this kind of crap.  Sounds like this person is part of the drug trade or illegal traffic.

  11. All the more reason to seal the border. Please pass this article on to all the states considering a SB1070 type law. It will give them more ammo to do it. You liberal bleeding hearts who write this stuff are naive and dumb. You just gave us a 1,000 reasons for SB1070. AND Militarize the border. Thats right MILITARIZE THE BORDER BEFORE THIS SPILLS OVER MORE!!!!

  12. I’ll bet all of you screaming to militarize the boarder wont serve 1 day in the military bunch of hippocrates. “But they’re not legal” right, good argument, get some perspective on life.  It’s really difficult being so misanthropic everyday but with neighbors like all of you its really difficult. The natives are returning to their land. It was bound to and is happening. “But they’re not legal” shut up and go volunteer or do something good for your community instead of bitching about it all the time. And wow Josh, great contribution to the Public Sphere!
    Some people, like myself, are willing to make sacrifices to help benefit the less fortunate. That’s why I joined the Army, and did a tour in Iraq. It’s called selfless service. Individual sacrifices are an unfortunate albeit very necessary aspect  of improving society. I understand that most people aren’t comfortable with the thought of having to make sacrifices  for others, they expect everyone else to revolve around their own egocentric, distorted sense of reality.
    I will always be willing to make sacrifices to help the less fortunate, even with my deep seeded disdain for the ugly human race. Thankfully there are others with the same passion, out there helping to make this world a better place for everyone. While the rest of you leeches cast judgments on a situation that you can not even begin to fully comprehend.

  13. Newsspeak:

    Peace is war. War is peace. And the Illegal Aliens are refugees from the drug war. How utterly silly. If there is a war there then lets send our troops to the border. Not the National Guard but some hard core combat units.

    And maybe the Mexican Army can actually take their country back by attacking the Cartels. At least the one who have not deserted.

  14. By the way I loved the photos in the article. Right from Pravda. Nice selection to foment this manure. We are watching…………….

  15. “Go visit and take my own pictures”!!! I have lived here in Tucson for 43 years in the southwest before that for 7 more.  I know what happens at the border. I dont need some photos of a grandmother and a little girl to tell me what is going on. You know what you were doing, we all do. But its your blog site not mine.
    Photo placement in all propaganda is important.

    • The little girl and her mother look like hard-core smugglers, don’t they?

      3Sonorans:  I hope you already know that facts and other information have no influence on changing a person’s pre-existing prejudices.  Faced with facts that are contrary to a person’s point of view and facing the possibility of a crisis of cognitive dissonance, people will usually end up even firmer in their already held beliefs.  They avoid the crisis by being suspicious of the source of information, by creating a conspiracy theory or by a variety of other mechanisms.   This is especially true these days when people can easily find a source of information that agrees with them. 

      • I hope you already know that facts and other information have no influence on changing a person’s pre-existing prejudices. 

        Like, for instance, the prejudices of Communist apologists and propagandists?

        • The US has never been a “capitalist” nation. I’m not advocating communism here, but to pretend that this nation of “too big to fail” is pure capitalist is delusion.
          Capitalism for the small business owners, where over 95% fail… but too big to fail is… well… too big to fail thanks to Uncle Sam…

    • I also included pictures of drug mafia, armed mexicans, troops, in addition to a recently deported little girl…
      I’m not sure you understand what goes on south of the border. You should hang out there some time, and not just in a tourist trap.
      It’s amazing how human the mexican people are, you might be surprised!

  16. An open borders argument. There are millions (billions) of people around the world in the same position.
    Do we want unlimited immigration?

  17. we don’t appreciate our privilege. We are still born into a caste system that determines your entire future.

    Actually, in this country, that is not the case.  I’ll readily agree that people born into poverty have a much, much harder time succeeding than do people born into means.  But, you can succeed, no matter where you start.  People do it all the time.

    You’ve written a compelling, thoughtful article.  You make many good points.

    If more of the arguments in favor of allowing more illegal immigrants into this country were written like this—instead of accusing people of being racists—-you’d most likely win over a lot more people to your side of the argument. 

    Many pro-illegal-immigration activists act as if people are entitled to enter this country illegally.  They’re not. 

    You make a compelling case that Mexican migrants should be allowed to emigrate to the US now, en masse, without insisting on the normal immigration procedures.

    Reasonable people can disagree with your opinion, however.  (For example, how are we to care and feed for these thousands of people?)  That doesn’t make them insensitive racists.  If the pro-illegal-immigration camp continues to depict them as such, expect anti-immigrant attitudes to harden even further.

  18. The  illegal mexican beantards need to start blowing farts in the other direction…they stink like a mother *ucker….

  19. A well written article.  Immigration would not be a problem IF it was handled properly. Liberalism has redefined what it means to be a nation of diversity. Diversity USED to mean that other people would come here, learn the language, join OUR culture, assimilate, and  become citizens completely forsaking their old national allegiance. Due to decades of brain washing in ‘ethnic studies’ classes diversity has been redefined to mean that immigrants are entitled to retain all of their national trappings, be accommodated in their language, and proudly refuse to integrate into their new country and culture.  They come here attracted by American Exceptionalism and never find it because our policies (lead by liberal minds that don’t live in the real world)  keep them trapped in a life and culture they wanted to leave. Want to come to America? Good. Learn the language, well. Work hard. Obey the law and be a good neighbor.

  20. A well written article. Immigration would not be a problem IF it was handled properly. Liberalism has redefined what it means to be a nation of diversity. Diversity USED to mean that other people would come here, learn the language, join OUR culture, assimilate, and become citizens completely forsaking their old national allegiance. Due to decades of brain washing in ‘ethnic studies’ classes diversity has been redefined to mean that immigrants are entitled to retain all of their national trappings, be accommodated in their language, and proudly refuse to integrate into their new country and culture. They come here attracted by American Exceptionalism and never find it because our policies (lead by liberal minds that don’t live in the real world) keep them trapped in a life and culture they wanted to leave.
    Want to come to America? Good. Learn the language, not just the bare minimum..learn it well. Work hard. Obey the law and be a good neighbor.

  21. shawn has it right. what a lack of compassion and dignity in you privileged mofos. compassion ain’t a new idea – maybe you’ve heard of jesus, or islam, or the buddha or your grandma. and if you haven’t been to mexico, and I mean really spent some time there, then it is hard to really understand these issues and the human consequences of these things. privilege distorts thought in many ways, and you might not be a racist, but you’re an asshole.

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