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A rough encounter with the Border Patrol when she was nabbed in the Sonoran Desert only aggravated her pain.
Juana had returned to Mexico about a month earlier because her mother was dying. She knew the risks of leaving her home, husband, and 3-year-old son behind in the States. Even her ailing mother pleaded with her not to return.
Juana had been living in New York for nearly 20 years. She needed to see her mom one last time.
Her mother died shortly after falling into a diabetic coma. After the funeral, Juana made plans to return home. She came across the border with a small group of immigrants, but they were spotted by roving Border Patrol agents.
Juana didn't run. She told New Times she hunkered down in fear when the agent pulled so close to her in his Chevy Suburban that she could feel heat radiating from the truck's tires. He jumped out, grabbed her, squeezed her arm tightly, and dragged her to his transport vehicle.
"Please, you're hurting me," she said, which elicited no mercy from her captor.
When told this story, Border Patrol Agent Eric Cantu, spokesman for the agency's Tucson sector, said agents have to approach every suspect as a potential threat.
There is no room, he said, for niceties in a desert where armed drug smugglers hide under the cover of darkness and where bajadores, bold enough to rob from murderous drug smugglers, roam in search of victims. There is little time to distinguish between immigrants who will submit to arrest peacefully, he said, and those who will lunge for an agent's weapon.
"Just getting to where [agents] need to be is full of danger," Cantu said. "And once you get there, you have a group of strangers willing to risk everything to get into the U.S. — and you're standing in their way."
Cantu, a former Marine with almost four years on the job, concedes that there are bad agents but that most carry out their duties with integrity:
"We're noble men and women. And we're dedicated to our jobs. We don't do it to crush dreams. We don't do it to humiliate. We do it for our country."
Juan Carlos Diaz Romero has a much different perspective after years of tending to deported migrants who arrive with signs of abuse at the No More Deaths migrant-aid station. He routinely hears stories that immigrants were denied food, water, or medical attention while in custody.
The full-time volunteer, who lives nearby, says he suffered Border Patrol abuse when he tried to cross into Arizona.
"I've suffered just like they have," he said. "I want to help, so I just stay here."
Of the deportees he encounters, Diaz Romero says, "Many people who arrive here have been beaten, have gone days without food.
"Oh, and if they [have] run, that only made the agents angry. The [agents] beat them to punish them."
Deportee Armando told volunteers that an agent beat him for fleeing. It happened after he had grown too tired to go on. He stopped, turned toward the agent, and threw his hands up in the air. The officer caught up, yanked Armando's head back, and slammed his fist into the side of the immigrant's face.
Officials deported the Michoacán native, and he later arrived at the migrant-aid station. Volunteers noted in their reports that he had scratches on his chest, was bleeding from a large gash in his hand, and looked like he had been savagely beaten.