Migrants Injured Falling from the Border Fence

The Mexican Consulate in Tucson and the Juan Bosco migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, have seen an increase in serious injuries along the fence, reported Fernanda Echavarri (Arizona Public Media) and Perla Trevizo (Arizona Daily Star). Their stories cite Ricardo Pineda, the Mexican Consul in Tucson, that there had been 37 cases of injured Mexican migrants in 2015 (in 2014 his office reported 56 cases). This number includes all injuries, not just falling from the fence, but the consul said that in 2015 they had more migrants in need of medical attention from falling off the border fence than from crossing the desert. By the beginning of July, 200 injured people were dropped off at the shelter across the line in Nogales; in June alone there were more than 30. Most of them are women with fractures to their feet, ankles or legs. AZPM article quotes the shelter's director, Gilda Felix: “They think it’s easier than walking for days in the desert but it’s not. [...] It’s the same crossing through the wall or through the desert, both difficult and dangerous.” 

Emergency responders in the Nogales Fire Department (NFD) say that they often receive calls to the fence. Even after in 2011 the new fence replaced its earlier version (with promises to make it more difficult to climb over and thus acting as a deterrent), people keep trying to get across and continue to be injured; only the mechanism of injury changed: though the earlier barrier, made of landing mats left over from the Vietnam War, had sharp edges and often caused finger amputations, falling from the present bollard-style fence, which stands over 20 feet above the ground, people fracture their ankles, tib-fibs or femurs, as well as injure their spine. Though I do not yet have statistics to estimate how frequently the fire department is dispatched to the border, on the first two days I observed the work of NFD by accompanying them on calls in May we went twice to help injured crossers. The first one was a 30-year-old woman who fell off the fence west of Mariposa Port of Entry; she had bilateral ankle fractures. The second, merely three days later, was another 30-year-old female whom we found down in the ravine by the corrals, where she had crawled after she fell off the wall; she had a laceration on her forehead and complained of back pain. Both women were flown by helicopter to the Level 1 Trauma Center in Tucson. 

Paramedics from the Nogales Fire Department provide emergency care to an injured woman who fell off the border fence. May 2015. Photo by Ieva.  

Patient being transferred onto LifeLine helicopter at the landing pad near Nogales Holy Cross Hospital. May 2015. Photo by Ieva.