Thursday, April 03, 2008

Immigrant Rights News – Thurs, April 3, 2008

Immigrant Rights News – Thurs, April 3, 2008

Visit for IRN and other National Network posts. 


1. Star-Ledger: "Lawsuit claims immigration raids are unconstitutional"

2. Two from Los Angeles Times:

A. "The right kind of immigration raid: Law enforcement and immigrant advocates are working together to make for kinder crackdowns.",0,101460.story

B. "Divided by death and the Mexican border. Illegal immigrant families are torn apart when someone dies. Survivors are afraid to follow a loved one home for burial.",0,532370.story

3. The Courier Journal: R20;Feds to Fly More Drones Along US BordersR21; 

4. New York Times: "How Immigrants Saved Social Security"

5. "Many illegal immigrants nameless in death" 


<><><> 1

Star-Ledger [NJ] 

Lawsuit claims immigration raids are unconstitutional

by Brian Donohue/The Star-Ledger

Thursday April 03, 2008, 11:30 AM

Warrantless immigration raids that have led to the deportation of hundreds of illegal immigrants living in New Jersey in recent years violate the U.S. Constitution, a human rights group associated with Seton Hall University charges in a lawsuit filed today.

The lawsuit, filed by Seton Hall Law School's Center for Social Justice and the Roseland law firm Lowenstein Sandler, challenges a growing and widespread tactic by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in which immigrants are arrested at their homes in pre-dawn raids.

Based on eight home raids that occurred across New Jersey between August 2006 and January 2008, the suit alleges ICE agents lied about their identity, illegally forced their way into homes and often claimed to be looking for someone who did not even live at the address. 

In some cases, the plaintiffs charge, they arrested and detained people living legally in the U.S.

"This is the first lawsuit in the country to focus on the consistency of these abusive home raid practices across an entire state, and over a significant period of time,'' Bassina Farbenblum, an attorney at the Seton Hall Center for Social Justice, said in a prepared release. 

"Our complaint shows that what happened to our plaintiffs in the middle of the night was not exceptional," she added. "It was part of a routine, widespread practice, condoned at the highest levels of government, that tramples the rights of citizens and non-citizens alike."

None of the raids involved valid warrants and none of the eight gave consent for agents to enter their homes, the lawsuit says. 

In one case, Maria Argueta, a legal U.S. resident living in North Bergen, says she was arrested by agents who did not ask to check her paperwork, detained 24 hours without food or water. In another, ICE agents and police from Penn's Grove stormed a house with guns drawn, looking for a man ICE had deported two years earlier.

In New Jersey, the raids are conducted by four fugitive operations teams, part of a nationwide program launched in 2003 to round up illegal immigrants who had ignored old deportation orders.

The program once set a goal of making criminals comprise 75 percent of its arrests. But government auditors found that, in order to boost arrest statistics and meet the 1,000-arrests-per-year quota set by their bosses, agents turned their attention away from criminals and other tough targets, such as illegal immigrants who use fake or stolen identities, government auditors found last year. 

In a story published in December, The Star-Ledger reported the four New Jersey teams arrested 2,079 people in the year that ended Sept. 30 - twice as many as the year before, when two teams were on the streets. The paper found that 88 percent of those arrested had no criminal histories and were picked up instead for civil immigration violations

<><><> 2 A 

Los Angeles Times editorial

The right kind of immigration raid

Law enforcement and immigrant advocates are working together to make for kinder crackdowns.,0,101460.story 

April 3, 2008 

Before U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement took 144 men and women into custody at Micro Solutions Enterprises in Van Nuys a few weeks ago, the agency sent advance notice to civil rights groups. It put social service agencies on standby in case children whose parents were detained needed help. Once the suspected illegal immigrants were identified, ICE agents asked if they had chronic health conditions, child-care issues or other urgent personal situations. Those who did were released and given an order to appear in court at a later date. Lastly, ICE handed out a list of attorneys who would take cases pro bono. 

It should have been the perfect immigration raid -- considerate, humanitarian, efficient, the agency's standard since the debacle in New Bedford, Mass., last year when children, including a breast-feeding baby, suffered when their parents were taken away for days. But the Van Nuys action still resulted in a lawsuit -- which led to progress. Lawyers waiting to assist the immigrants filed an injunction against ICE after they were stopped from accompanying the immigrants to interviews, a clear violation of the constitutional right to representation. ICE settled the suit several days ago, and since then attorney access has been smoother.

This is the reform of immigration enforcement far from the halls of Congress. It is being cobbled together bit by bit, with compromises, cooperation and confrontation by naturally opposing forces -- those charged with enforcing the law and deporting illegal immigrants and those who advocate on their behalf.  

Tuesday afternoon, outraged immigration activists picketed ICE's downtown intake station, protesting the detention of about 30 suspected illegal immigrants taken in what they believed were "raids" on warehouses. Even a well-conducted raid is a hypocrisy, they said, illustrating contradictions between immigration enforcement policies and immigration law: A humane raid would not separate mothers from their young children for a long time, but the law allows the harsher separation of deportation.

It turns out, however, that the people picked up Tuesday were taken in routine port customs security inspections of freight warehouses. Those businesses have to comply with a lengthy list of security requirements, one of which is to not hire illegal immigrants, who are particular security risks because their status makes them vulnerable to coercion. All reasonable. So Wednesday morning, immigration advocates and ICE officials were on the phone together, examining and clarifying Tuesday's events -- and preparing for the next time.

<><><> 2B 

Los Angeles Times


Divided by death and the Mexican border

Illegal immigrant families are torn apart when someone dies. Survivors are afraid to follow a loved one home for burial.,0,532370.story 

By Anna Gorman

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

April 2, 2008

Alberta Trujillo felt the baby coming. She woke her fiance, Margarito Garcia, and told him they needed to get to a hospital.

Neither had a car or a driver's license. So they bundled up and started walking to East Los Angeles Doctors Hospital a block away.

Trujillo had to stop across the street from the emergency room as Garcia ran to get help. He returned with a wheelchair and an attendant, and the couple headed into the hospital.

They knew they were having a girl and had already chosen a name: Nicole.

But now the baby's heartbeat was dropping, so as soon as the doctor arrived, Trujillo started pushing.

"I was worried," Garcia said. "I didn't know what was going to happen."

Nicole was born at 4:22 a.m on Jan. 25. But she wasn't breathing, and her heart had stopped. Doctors were unable to save her.

Garcia was holding Trujillo's hand a few minutes later, trying to comfort her, when she started throwing up blood.

"Don't let what happened to our baby happen to me," Trujillo begged, crying.

The doctor took Trujillo into surgery to try to stop the bleeding. But by 1 p.m., she was dead.

"I wanted to die too," Garcia said.

His troubles were not over. As he mourned the deaths of his fiancee and daughter, Garcia soon found that his decision to sneak across the border four years earlier was about to backfire.

At a time when most families come together to grieve, families like Trujillo's are separated -- by their initial decision to illegally cross the border, by their desire to bury relatives back home, and by their fear of never being able to return if they travel to Mexico.

The Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles pays for an immigrant's final journey home if the family is unable to do so. In the last four years, the consulate has shipped more than 1,000 bodies to Mexico for burial. Consul General Juan Marcos Gutiérrez-González said the situation for undocumented relatives who cannot travel with the bodies "is the worst of the worst."

"It is the most direct experience of human suffering," he said.

But Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said that is the price illegal immigrants pay for breaking the law.

"We have borders and we have immigration laws," he said. "People who choose to jump the line have to deal with the consequences of that."

Garcia wanted to bury Trujillo and their baby in Los Angeles. Trujillo's family -- both in the U.S. and Mexico -- wanted her to be buried in the town where she was born and where her parents still lived. Three of her children from a previous marriage also lived in Mexico.

"My sister always fought to have a better life here," said Elizabeth Trujillo, who lives in Los Angeles. "But we are Mexicans and we want to return to where we were born."

Alberta Trujillo left her village of Pericotepec when she was 11, quitting school to go with her older sister to Mexico City. She wed as a teenager and had four children. Her marriage was strained for many years and ended badly, her family said.

In 1999, Trujillo decided to head north, leaving her children behind and crossing illegally into the U.S. She lived in East Los Angeles, supporting herself by cooking in a lunch truck and by selling beauty products and Tupperware. Trujillo sent money home to her family to buy some land and build a home just outside Mexico City. Trujillo returned in 2001 to see her children and her home and to finalize her divorce. Her eldest son, Miguel Ramos, came to live with her. She talked of building a second story on the house and opening a small store nearby.

But after four years, Trujillo decided to go back to the U.S. to earn more money. She wanted to bring her children, but only her two daughters made the journey with her. One returned to Mexico not long after.

Ramos, now 22 and still in Mexico, supported his mother's decision to leave, even when she missed his graduation from college and even when she missed the birth of his first child.

"More than anything, I wanted her to be happy more than I wanted her to be with me," he said.

On Christmas Eve 2006 in Los Angeles, Trujillo met Garcia, who was working in construction and living with friends. She was 37 and he was 26, and they started dating despite the age difference. On Valentine's Day, he told her he was in love with her. He didn't have much to offer, but he promised to take care of her.

"I wanted her to have a life of kings and queens," Garcia said.

For the first time in many years, her siblings said, Trujillo seemed happy. Garcia, who had lost both his parents, also hoped for a new beginning. They moved in together and Trujillo learned she was pregnant in the spring.

"We were expecting this baby with such excitement," Garcia said.

The coroner determined that Trujillo died when amniotic fluid got into her bloodstream. Her baby died after an abruption of the placenta caused her to lose oxygen and blood supply. Emergency Medi-Cal paid for their time in the hospital.

Each night, family and friends gathered for a rosary beneath a white tent in the driveway of the East Los Angeles home where Garcia and Trujillo had lived. They placed candles and bouquets around a framed photo of Trujillo and a printout of the baby's ultrasound. A banner on one of the wreaths said in glittery letters "Descanse en paz" -- Rest in peace.

They prayed. They sang. And as they ate tamales and drank hot chocolate, they told stories of Trujillo. Inside the house, Nicole's bassinet sat untouched, carefully made up with Winnie the Pooh bedding and filled with diapers, baby powder, woven booties and baby clothes still bearing the tags.

Garcia and four of Trujillo's siblings in the U.S. are undocumented. Returning to Mexico with the body would mean a costly and dangerous journey back across the border to their jobs and U.S.-born children. They decided that the bodies of Trujillo and her baby should be shipped to Mexico and, reluctantly, that they would stay behind.

"Here she lived, here she died," said her brother Fernando Trujillo. "But there, people are waiting for her too."

Garcia sought help at the Mexican Consulate, which agreed to pay for the expenses and referred him to a local funeral home.

One evening, Garcia went to the funeral home to deliver clothes for Trujillo and the baby. He reached into a plastic gift bag and pulled out Nicole's clothes one item at a time: a yellow shirt, a pair of socks and a sleeper.

"This is, I don't know, a little hat?" Garcia said, holding it tightly.

The viewing and Mass took place on a Thursday night. At the front of the chapel, Nicole lay cradled in her mother's arms in a plain, black casket. Trujillo wore a white button-down shirt beneath a black suit. Her lips were painted pink and her hair was pulled back.

Standing before a mural of Jesus above the clouds, a priest sprinkled water on Nicole's head and baptized her into the Roman Catholic faith. Then he called Garcia up to the casket.

It was the first time he had seen his fiancee and child since they had died. Garcia made the sign of the cross and quickly returned to his seat, trying to hold back tears. At the mortuary the next morning, Garcia held his baby in his arms and looked at her pale face. "I didn't want this to happen to you, precious," he whispered as he kissed her forehead. "Sleep, my baby. I love you very much, my love."

Then he walked over to the casket. He lightly touched Trujillo's cheek and adjusted her beaded necklace.

"One day we will be together," he said, his voice quivering. "I am now married to you. You are the love of my life."

In Cholula, Mexico, Trujillo's sister Felicitas and brother Artemio went to a funeral home to pick out a casket. The family was using donations to buy a new coffin to replace the plywood one donated by the Mexican Consulate.

"Of the pine, which is the cheapest?" Artemio asked one of the mortuary employees.

"That one, 4,800 pesos" -- about $450, the man responded. "That's very simple. . . . This one is pretty. How much is it?"

"6,000 pesos," he said.

Felicitas put her hand on top of the casket, which had a relief of a sorrowful Virgin Mary. Artemio took a photo of the casket on his cellphone and sent it to siblings in Los Angeles who would help pay for it.

The bodies traveled on a cargo flight from Los Angeles to Mexico City. Workers from the Cholula funeral home retrieved the casket, drove it to the mortuary and unloaded it from the hearse.

As the men transferred the body into the new wood casket, they handed the dead child to her aunt. Felicitas Trujillo held the baby briefly, saying only, "chiquita" -- little one. Then she held her sister's hand before turning away.

Felicitas said that she knew Garcia wanted her sister to be buried in the U.S., but that this was where she belonged.

"I thank him for all the time he made my sister happy," she said. "But here is all the family. . . . Here there are other traditions that they don't do there."

In Pericotepec, a pueblo of 700 residents, Trujillo's parents had been waiting more than two weeks for their daughter to return. When the hearse from Cholula pulled up just before 6 p.m., they stood among two lines of relatives holding candles and flowers.

"Applause!" one woman shouted, prompting the others to clap and yell, "Alberta!" Under white and black balloons and ribbons, a large sign read, "Welcome the Deceased Alberta Trujillo Hernandez."

The sad homecoming underscored the difference between how illegal immigrants are viewed in Mexico and in the U.S. In Mexico, they are often seen as heroes who worked hard and make tremendous sacrifices to support their families.

Trujillo's three eldest children helped guide her casket onto a table. Anabel Ramos, 21, arranged flowers around the edge of the table. Josue, 17, put his head down on the casket. Miguel Ramos looked down at his mother's face and took a deep breath.

They arranged white roses and gardenias inside the casket, along with a thorny rose stem so Trujillo could ward off enemies on her way to heaven. They also included bottles of water and milk for Nicole.

Trujillo's parents said they didn't understand why she went north. What's more important than being close to family? Even after she met Garcia, she could have come home with him, they said.

"She would have been very poor, but she would have been close to us," said her mother, Delfina Hernandez, 66. "And I could have seen her one more time alive."

Her father, Eduardo Trujillo, 70, said he did what he could to make his children happy in Mexico so they wouldn't want to travel to the U.S. Now, with the first death among his 12 children, Trujillo said he wanted them to return home.

"We would like all of our children here, in their land, in their country, Mexico," he said. "But they decide, not me."

Throughout the night, neighbors and friends came to the house. Every few hours, someone led the crowd in prayer in front of the casket. Women cooked and washed dishes under a large mesquite tree. Men huddled around a fire, drinking arroz con leche. Pigs and roosters roamed nearby.

At one point, some of Trujillo's relatives gathered in a room in the house to watch a DVD of photos from the U.S. There were pictures of Trujillo and her siblings, barbecuing and playing with children.

Trujillo's brother noticed an unfamiliar man and asked if that was Garcia.

"Margarito?" said Trujillo's son, Miguel. "I don't know. I never met him."

On the day of the burial, two young girls sprinkled flower petals as they led the procession down the main road of town toward the cemetery. Dozens of mourners, holding incense, candles and flowers, walked alongside men carrying the casket. As they walked past the elementary school and houses, the church bells chimed and a warm breeze blew dust through the crowd. Mariachis -- dressed in sharp suits and red bow ties -- sang songs of love and loss.

Metal crosses, dried flowers and handwritten headstones dotted the small cemetery.

Few words were spoken as friends and relatives kissed Trujillo's casket and prayed aloud. Trujillo's mother sat down on the dirt and covered her face in tissues. Relatives rushed to offer her water and fan her with hats.

"I ask you, God, care for her soul," she cried.

The gravediggers used thick ropes to lower the coffin deep into the ground.

"Little by little," Trujillo's father said, guiding them. "Slowly, muchachos. There."

Women rushed to arrange bouquets of lilies, roses and gardenias. Everyone held hands and said a final prayer. Trujillo's three children were the last to leave.

Miguel Ramos leaned against a tree with his fists clenched. He wished everyone could be together during this time of mourning, but he has grown used to the fact that his family is separated by the border.

"In moments when we need support, we are united," he said. "It doesn't matter if we are here or there."

Life in the Shadows is one in a series of occasional articles.


<><><> 3 

Courier Journal

Feds to Fly More Drones Along US Borders

By ARTHUR H. ROTSTEIN | Associated Press Writer

April 2, 2008  

SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. - The pilot has gone through his checklist and taxied his plane into position for takeoff.

He gets clearance from the control tower, throttles forward and -- from the ground -- guides his unmanned aircraft into the sky along the Mexican border to watch for drug traffickers and illegal immigrants, part of a bird's-eye patrol that authorities hope to expand.

Four Predator B drones have become fixtures over Arizona since October 2006, and two more will join them soon, Juan Munoz-Torres, a Customs and Border Protection spokesman, said Wednesday.

Once those six are in place, the agency wants Congress to fund six drones along the Canadian border and six more on Florida's Gulf Coast and the Caribbean, said Douglas Koupash, who heads Customs and Border Protection's drone program.

"You're talking about really, really vast spaces and our ability to get to some of the remote spaces efficiently," Koupash said recently.

The Predator Bs used for these missions are unarmed civilian adaptations of missile-toting drones used by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each weighs five tons, has a 66-foot wingspan and can fly virtually undetected at altitudes of up to 50,000 feet, said Pete McNall, deputy director for Customs' unmanned aerial systems in the Southwest.

The border agency's fully loaded, $10.5 million Predators carry long-range cameras, but even at night, operators using the drones' radar imaging and infrared capabilities can light a target with a laser visible only through the night vision goggles of helicopter crews who intercept some of the border crossers.

"That's like a little red finger from God coming down and saying, 'Hey, there's some guy under that tree right there.' Very effective," McNall said.

From October 2006 through Feb. 16, the drones had helped in the apprehension of 3,857 illegal immigrants and the seizure of more than nine tons of marijuana, according to the most recent statistics available. Those numbers don't include apprehensions and seizures credited to different kinds of drones tested in Arizona in 2004 or to a Predator B that flew from October 2005 until it crashed the following April; the National Transportation Safety Board ruled pilot error as the likely cause.

Officials say intelligence gathering drives each flight, but critics question whether the aerial surveillance doesn't abuse the privacy of American citizens.

Lee Tien, senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, said the flights are likely to create "a civil liberties-free zone along the border."

His organization has not received any complaints about Predators, but Tien said he assumed "that's because they can't see them or aren't aware of them."

"It's Catch-22," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Technology and Liberty Project. "How can you tell if you're being pictured if you can't tell whether you're being surveilled or not?"

Koupash said he hasn't dealt with any specific inquiries over privacy concerns, but noted the drones are flown primarily over remote border territory, not large cities.

The first flights outside Arizona are begin this spring. A drone from Arizona will patrol the Canadian border out of Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D.

Koupash said authorities eventually want to branch out over the Great Lakes, which have a large volume of undocumented marine traffic.

"The challenge on the northern border is the vast wilderness and number of trees," he said. "We may have to work with our technology partners to see if we can adapt different types of sensors" to see through the forests.

The drones deployed to Florida would search for surface craft and low-flying planes carrying illegal immigrants or drugs, and submarines and semisubmersibles that which can carry up to half a ton of cocaine, Koupash said.

<><><> 4 

New York Times

April 2, 2008


How Immigrants Saved Social Security

Immigration is good for the financial health of Social Security because more workers mean more tax revenue. Illegal immigration, it turns out, is even better than legal immigration. In the fine print of the 2008 annual report on Social Security, released last week, the program's trustees noted that growing numbers of "other than legal" workers are expected to bolster the program over the coming decades.

One reason is that many undocumented workers pay taxes during their work lives but don't collect benefits later. Another is that undocumented workers are entering the United States at ever younger ages and are expected to have more children while they're here than if they arrived at later ages. The result is a substantial increase in the number of working-age people paying taxes, but a relatively smaller increase in the number of retirees who receive benefits - a double boon to Social Security's bottom line.

We're not talking chump change. According to the report, the taxes paid by other-than-legal immigrants will close 15 percent of the system's projected long-term deficit. That's equivalent to raising the payroll tax by 0.3 percentage points, starting today.

That is not to suggest that illegal immigration is a legitimate fix to Social Security's problems. It is another reminder, however, of the nation's complex relationship with undocumented workers. Would the people who want to deport all undocumented workers be willing to make up the difference and pay the taxes that the undocumented are currently paying? 

It is also a reminder of Social Security's dynamism. As society and the economy evolve, so does the system, responding not only to changes in immigration and fertility, but also in wage growth and other variables.

As such, it is adaptable to the 21st century, if only the political will can be found to champion the necessary changes. Those include modest tax increases and moderate benefit cuts that could be phased in over decades - provided the country gets started soon.


<><><> 5

updated 2:43 p.m. EDT, Wed April 2, 2008

Many illegal immigrants nameless in death 

Story Highlights

·        A year after his death, the identity of a man known as "No. 8" remains a mystery

·        Many illegal immigrants carry no identification, making them anonymous in death

·        DNA and help from relatives can help identify unknown immigrants

BLANDING, Utah (AP) -- The foreigner is buried in a small-town cemetery, against a barbed-wire fence in an unmarked plot set aside for poor people. 

He might be Mexican. He might be Guatemalan. But he's simply called "No. 8," a man with no name because his identity is still unknown a year after he was killed in a car wreck with seven other illegal immigrants in southeastern Utah.

"This is the Garden of Eden of Utah down here," said Philip Palmer, coordinator at Blanding City Cemetery, referring to the mountain peaks in four states visible from the graveyard. "It's a good place to put him." 

More than 2,000 illegal immigrants have died in the Southwest since 2002, and many are nameless in death -- buried as anonymous victims of heat stroke, car crashes or other calamities.

They typically carry no identification, just the clothes on their back and the dream of a life better than the one they left behind.

"They're filling our morgues," said Todd Matthews of Livingston, Tennessee, who works for the Doe Network, a volunteer organization that helps law enforcement with unidentified remains.

More than half of the border-crossing deaths in the Southwest since 2002 have occurred in Arizona's Pima County, which includes Tucson, on the Arizona-Mexico border.

Bruce Anderson, a forensic anthropologist in Tucson, said a quarter of the victims there lack names. Many remains are little more than bleached bone after a few days in the sun, making them almost impossible to identify.

"They die in the middle of nowhere," Anderson said. "Most Americans die in their car, in their house, or with somebody they know." 

In the case of No. 8, he apparently died in Utah among strangers.

It's unknown when or how he entered the country. But on the night of April 15, 2007, he piled into a sport utility vehicle in Phoenix, Arizona, joining 13 other people for a trip to St. Louis, Missouri.

They crossed the Arizona-Utah state line at 3:30 a.m. At some point, the driver drifted out of his lane, overcorrected and lost control of the vehicle, sending it spinning onto its side. 

The SUV rolled several times, and seven passengers were thrown from it. Eight people, all illegal immigrants, were killed.

The driver, Rigoberto Salas-Lopez, told agents he was paid $1,000 to drive the group. He pleaded guilty to transporting illegal aliens resulting in death and will be sentenced June 5 in federal court in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

The body of No. 8 was transported more than 300 miles north to the Utah medical examiner's office in Salt Lake City, where doctors took fingerprints, photographs and samples from his body. But prospects for identifying him became increasingly bleak.

"You can have a very fresh body, and still the person is unidentifiable because there are no leads as to who they might be," said Dr. Todd Grey, the state's chief medical examiner. "There's certainly not going to be a missing person's report filed." 

Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said agents worked with the Mexican and Guatemalan consulates. The bodies of three other unknown crash victims were eventually identified and sent home for burial, but No. 8 remained.

In Salt Lake City, the Mexican Consulate fed information from the medical examiner into a database but learned nothing. In Denver, Colorado, the Guatemalan Consulate met the same result. 

Experts said DNA will be the key to solving difficult cases in the future.

Lori Baker at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, has been building a DNA database since 2003. With DNA samples from Pima County, Arizona, and cooperation from the Mexican government, she has identified more than 70 dead illegal immigrants. 

The process relies on relatives in Mexico telling authorities they haven't heard from a loved one who was expected to cross the border. If they provide a blood sample, Baker runs it through her database to compare it to samples on file.

At a minimum, Baker hopes to develop a "genetic map" using indicators within DNA that could help identify someone's native country. 

"What we're hoping is that by having this genetic profile and then having information from Mexico, we can say, 'Well, this person doesn't look to be Mexican -- genetically, they look to be Guatemalan,"' she said.

But to many coroners, the DNA process seems expensive and the technology intimidating, Baker said. 

By last fall, No. 8's body had been in Salt Lake City for six months. No family members had stepped up to claim a missing relative fitting his description and circumstances.

That's when Danny Palmer, funeral director at San Juan Mortuary, was called to pick up the body and return it to southeastern Utah for burial, just a few miles from where the crash occurred.

Palmer stored the body in the mortuary garage for about a week while the grave was prepared. San Juan County paid the $700 bill for the burial, and the mortuary donated a steel casket valued at $1,000.

There was no prayer, no ceremony as the body was laid to rest in plot 55 in the Blanding cemetery. No. 8 was recorded in cemetery records as "unknown male" -- an immigrant who died thousands of miles from home and was finally buried October 12.

"It felt a little bit hollow that there was no family. There was no noise," Danny Palmer recalled.

A local man who assisted, Mike Moses, said: "There was a heaviness that was there. All of us felt pretty helpless about what to do."

The men tied a rope around the casket to make it easier to remove if anyone ever does come looking. But for now, No. 8 will stay in Utah indefinitely.

"That'll be his spot," Philip Palmer said.

<><><> the end / el fin / tamat <><><>


Arnoldo Garcia

National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Red Nacional Pro Derechos Inmigrantes y Refugiados

310 8th Street Suite 303

Oakland, CA 94607

Tel (510) 465-1984 ext. 305

Fax (510) 465-1885

Join HURRICANE: the human rights immigrant community action network -- help build community power for justice & human rights!


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