A Report from Juarez, the Bleeding Front Line of the War on Drugs 

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Mexicans lived in America before many territories became states. Indeed, much of our country was once their country. Today, Mexican immigrants are part of the fabric of this nation. Yet there is now fervor to drive immigrants out -almost at all costs. Keep them from coming here-almost at all costs.

What part of "illegal" don’t you understand?

Arizona, ground zero for the so-called immigration problem in America, has passed a law requiring the police to stop anyone they think might be here illegally and force production of proof of citizenship. This puts the yoke of suspicion upon all with brown skin, including Americans. Other states are considering similar legislation.

Village Voice Media, in a national series, is telling the stories of Hispanics amongst us, the struggle they face, the groundswell of anti-immigrant sentiment, and the problems that drive immigration from the south.

The project examines the consequences when federal authorities lack a coherent immigration policy.

Driving on a cold desert night to a small farming community along the Rio Grande where hit men had gunned down a man who stopped to buy a beer, the convoy of local crime photographers snapped away at a soldier manning a checkpoint. He was wearing a skeleton mask, a "mask of death,'' as he pulled over drivers deemed suspicious and who could be carrying drugs or guns. The soldiers were guarding a main highway outside Ciudad Juárez that leads to communal farming communities that mostly grow cotton and alfalfa along the river.

"He's just being a jerk," one photographer for the Diario de Juárez newspaper said of the masked soldier. "A lot of them do it."

It was a busy night but not unlike others in this dirt-road agricultural region, now known as one of the deadliest places in the world. It's an area where journalists barely venture and where politicians running for local offices are threatened into abandoning their aspirations.

Earlier that evening, the reporters and photographers who cover the city zipped to the international airport, where several hundred passengers had been evacuated following the week's third bomb scare. When it turned out to be a false alarm—nerves are jittery—the journalists flocked to their parked cars.

Police scanners told of an "executed" man in the Loma Blanca neighborhood in the Valley of Juárez, the porous stretch of land southeast of Juárez that extends somewhat sleepily for 50 miles along the Texas border and has historically been a haven for contraband and illegal immigration.

Normally, the journalists would have sped to the area and tried to scoop their colleagues for the story. But these aren't normal times. Instead, they organized themselves in a caravan and drove to the scene, keeping track of each other via cellular phones.

"We never go alone to a crime scene anymore. It's too dangerous. This way, if something happens to you, at least there are witnesses," said one veteran photographer of his beat recording the daily carnage of drug violence in Juárez and its environs. "Yes, we're scared, but we try to be careful."

When they arrived at the dusty neighborhood, dozens of people had come out of their homes, and police and soldiers had cordoned off a corner street. The only sound heard was the crying of women and babies. Underneath the yellow light of a Carta Blanca sign outside a small grocery store called La Consentida lay the body of Rogelio Ituarte de la Hoya, a 37-year-old father of five children.

"Why? Why?" wailed his mother, Ana Lozano, a retired maid who lives in El Paso, as relatives hugged and consoled her. "These murders are happening every day and no one does anything. My son was innocent. He didn't have anything to do with drugs!"

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