Tracing The Migrant Journey: On The Ground In Nogales, Mexico

By Michel Marizco, Lauren Gilger
Published: Wednesday, August 21, 2019 - 3:32pm
Updated: Friday, August 23, 2019 - 12:50pm

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Series supported in part by Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust

Pancho Olachea
Michel Marizco/KJZZ
Pancho Olachea, a registered nurse in Mexico, examines a young girl's teeth.

LAUREN GILGER: In our ongoing series, "Tracing The Migrant Journey," we've heard dispatches from Honduras, and Mexico's southern border in Guadalajara, Mexico, and along Mexico's border with western Arizona. Now our Fronteras Desk takes us a little closer to home, where I'm joined by KJZZ's Michel Marizco, who's been reporting in Nogales, Sonora, and Yuma, Arizona. Good morning, Michel.

MICHEL MARIZCO: Hey, good morning.

GILGER: So, the Border Patrol has credited Mexico with a tremendous drop in apprehensions along the southwest border, where you are. So, how does that jive with what you're seeing in Nogales?

MARIZCO: Well, it's definitely has changed a lot of the face of what we are seeing and who we're seeing here in Nogales, Mexico. For example, I spoke with Amalia Mejia. She was carrying her 3-year-old daughter in her arms, and she was receiving clothes from an Arizona-based nonprofit. They're from Mexico. [Speaking in Spanish.] So, she's a Mexican national, and she's planning to ask for asylum to escape violence in her native Guerrero, Mexico. This is a new development of Mexicans more commonly now asking for asylum alongside their Central American counterparts.

GILGER: Yeah, that's really interesting. So, do Mexican citizens successfully receive asylum the way that Central Americans do?

MARIZCO: There is a lot more scrutiny, and there's a lot more skepticism by asylum officers, because of some of the same questions that they have for Central American migrants — are you here because the economy is terrible? Or are you here because the national security, the domestic security is terrible in your country? So, there is definitely more scrutiny on Mexicans being able to ask for asylum — unless there is a very, very specific politically driven threat.

Michel Marizco/KJZZ

GILGER: And I'm really struck by your description of parents like this at the border. These people have really, you know, gone through a difficult journey to get there.

MARIZCO: And they're not even here yet.

GILGER: Right. So, by the time they arrive at the Mexican side of the border, what kind of conditions are they in?

MARIZCO: So, there's definitely some health concerns. I spent some time earlier this week with Pancho Olachea. He is a registered nurse in Mexico. And he volunteers with a group called Voices from the Border. They were out dispensing hygiene packs, and backpacks, and clothes, and underwear to kids, and mothers, and parents, and families who are waiting there in Nogales. And on this day he was checking blood pressure. He was asking folks about her diets. And I spent some time with him while he was inspecting the teeth on a young kid — maybe about 6 or 7 years old. I asked him how that went.

PANCHO OLACHEA: She has never been taking care of her teeth. She probably will get an infection very soon. She's got ... more than seven teeth and very, very bad shape and molars.

GILGER: So, Michel, now you're in Yuma, where you'll be reporting on the U.S. Border Patrol today — is that right?

Michel Marizco/KJZZ

MARIZCO: Yeah, correct. Today is actually a very significant day for the Border Patrol. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McClendon is already talking about this latest immigration overhaul, which would be doing away with what's called the Flores Settlement. This is a requirement through a court mandate that any federal government administration, really, take care of kids and make sure that they're in custody over for only a limited amount of time. The Trump administration has lambasted this as a loophole for catch and release, right? So, what they're hoping to do now is they're hoping to successfully stop that measure and enable them to arrest and deport children more quickly, if they're able to.

GILGER: All right. That's KJZZ's Michel Marizco reporting from Yuma and Nogales. Michel, thank you.

MARIZCO: Thank you.

GILGER: And tomorrow we'll check in again with Michel as our series, "Tracing The Migrant Journey," continues. You can learn more about this four-country reporting project at journey.kjzz.org. And you can follow along with our reporters on Twitter using the hashtag #MigrantJourney.

For more, follow KJZZ reporters on Twitter using the hashtag #MigrantJourney. 

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