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The woman was later identified as Griselda Verduzco Armenta, 32, by her cousin who spoke with news outlet Telemundo. She said that Verduzco attempted the dangerous border crossing to provide a better life for her two young daughters, who are around one and nine years old.
The Cochise County Sheriff’s Office confirmed in a public statement that the migrant woman climbed to the top of the border wall and was attempting to descend to the U.S. side when her “foot/leg became entangled (in her harness) and she was trapped upside down for a significant amount of time.”
Arizona law enforcement found her hanging and rushed the woman to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead.
Carol Capas, a communications coordinator for Cochise County, said via The Guardian that an autopsy determined that Verduzco died of accidental asphyxiation after hanging upside down for an unspecified, but extensive, period of time.
Verduzco’s cousin told Telemundo that her relative is a native of Ahome, Sinaloa, and had hired migrant smugglers known as “coyotes” to help her make the border crossing near Douglas, Arizona.
According to Capas, Verduzco and other migrants scaled the wall with a ladder on the Mexico side and used a rappelling harness to lower themselves down to the U.S. side. Verduzco’s foot and leg became trapped at the top of the fence causing her to flip upside-down and choke to death.
“These types of incidents are not political, they are humanitarian realities that someone has lost a loved one in a senseless tragedy,” local Sheriff Mark Dannels said. “We have to do better in finding solutions to the challenges facing our border, and we have to do it for the right reasons.”
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection estimates that more than 8,000 migrants have died trying to cross the southern border between 1998 and 2020. But Border Angels, a nonprofit group that works to prevent migrant deaths at the border, said that the death toll is likely much higher than official data purports. They say it’s easy for human remains to disappear in the harsh desert climate.
Border Angels says that migrants who fall behind the group when attempting to cross the border are often left to fend for themselves, citing research from Maria Jimenez of the ACLU. Even stepping on a cactus needle can become a death sentence in the harsh environment, it stated.
Verduzco’s relative claims that the coyotes who Verduzco hired to guide her across the border abandoned her when she became trapped.
“And, well, they left her there for their own safety, also, I think, so that wouldn’t arrest them. And they left her there hanging — she was still alive,” she told Telemundo. It is unclear how she got this information, and it hasn’t been confirmed.
According to the Tucson Star, the Mexican consulate in Douglas is working to deliver Verduzco’s remains to her relatives.
Consul Ricardo Pineda Albarrán issued a statement on Saturday condemning migrant smugglers-for-hire who claim to help people cross the U.S. border safely for a hefty fee.
“They fooled this woman and her group that it was safe,” Pineda said. “Imagine how distraught this family is. We condemn this.”
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