Chapter 15 Summary
Billions are spent trying to stop illegals at the border; it is too expensive for illegals to return to Mexico, so only thirty percent return after two years.
The Border Patrol, in accordance with a “long-standing federal plan,” tries to leave the survivors at the Yuma hospital without arresting them. If the illegals are brought in for “life-saving purposes,” the hospital must pay the bill; if they are arrested first, the United States government must bear the expenses.
The survivors of the Wellton 26 lay in hospital beds within hours of being rescued. Nine are in fair condition, two are in serious condition, and one is critical. All together, it is an overwhelming string of bodies, dead and alive. Mendez tries not to be recognized and wonders if his pollos will “cover for him.”
Rita Vargas is the Mexican consul in Calexico; she is responsible for the Yuma area and accustomed to dealing with depravity and death. The survivors are overwhelmed and intimidated by so many medical, law enforcement, and government officials hovering around them. They begin their IVs and soon they are able to urinate again.
When they are questioned, the only thing all the survivors tacitly agree on is to blame Mendez for everything. They all wonder who survived but are afraid to ask who has died. They do not even know if Yuma is in Mexico or America, and they are afraid Chespiro will kill their families if they mention any names other than Mendez’s.
They have all been arrested now, but there are no plans to deport them. Their testimonies will ensure that the monster, Mendez, will be punished.
The United States Attorney for the District of Arizona, Paul K. Charlton, is determined to “take Mendez down.” Mendez had been apprehended on seven other occasions, six of them in the summer, and therefore had to be aware of the dangerous heat and the vastness of the desert.
The victims, however, only knew what he told them—that the walk would only take two days, that they would walk only at night, and that they would need water only for a day or two.
Mendez writes a letter asking for “forgiveness and pardon” before explaining his own background and assuring the judge that he only intended to help these men, not abandon them. He nearly died, too, and had no idea what happened to any of them. Charlton insists that Mendez’s bad behavior was reckless and contends he should have known the “inherent risks of this undertaking.”
The fourteen corpses are driven to the medical examiner in Tucson, passing within five miles of the spot where Lauro and Mendez were found. The dead men make the same trip that killed them in only a few hours. The men are now cool and in no pain. Most are eventually identified and claimed. Lauro was buried namelessly in a potter’s field after a futile search for family.