Chapter 16 Summary
The survivors are called heroes. Getting the corpses ready to be transferred to Mexico costs more than twenty-five thousand dollars; Vargas flies home with them and they are celebrated as martyred heroes.
America is blamed for the tragedy. The flight cost sixty-eight thousand dollars; Vargas wonders what might have happened if that money had been invested in these villages to begin with.
Mendez is in a Phoenix jail but still refuses to talk; he knows he is as dead as those already in the morgue (the Yuma 14) but refuses to name any names. His public defender has difficulty building a defense. When he hears about the bonfire, he claims that a “vast borderland conspiracy” is responsible since no one responded to the fire.
But the survivors are now talking, and all the money Mendez had when the authorities found him is damning evidence that he never meant to return for the walkers. Authorities begin investigating the Cercas gang in both Mexico and America. El Negro is indicted in absentia but flees and becomes a folk hero to the Mexican people.
Jesús Lopez Ramos (Mendez) is now twenty years old and pleads guilty to fourteen counts of illegal immigrant smuggling resulting in death and eleven resulting in “serious bodily injury.” Each count has the potential for the death penalty and up to a 250,000 dollar fine. Mendez admits to everything, pleading guilty in exchange for his life.
In exchange for their testimony, the survivors are granted immunity from prosecution. All of them are given a place to live and jobs in Phoenix.
Since that May of 2001, the “depravity of the border churns ahead in a parade of horrors.” For a short time, the border situation got better, but the events of 9/11 made borders a renewed target of American hatred and fear. Homeland Security sent more enforcement to the borders.
Illegal workers in the United States earn more in one hour that they would working all day in a drudge job in Mexico. Young Mexicans look across the border and see the excesses of American culture and covet everything they see. “Even the gringo trash is better than anything else they can buy.”
The Yuma 14 changed nothing and the atrocities continue; any changes are mostly symbolic. Mendez is in an Arizona prison, and Mike F. is now part of the K-9 corps.
The one truth everyone realizes is that the way things have always worked are not working, although some new strategies have shown promise. The debate about what illegals cost America rages, but it is certain the costs will increase as long as workers can never return to Mexico. As the Wellton 26 show, many illegals are only interested in short-term work in America and plan to rejoin their families at home.
The investigation of the Yuma 14 is over and their files are sealed. Only one surprising fact is worth noting: all of the victims were listed as white males.