CHICAGO – The family of Juan de Dios Romero, an undocumented Mexican deaf-mute missing since April when he tried to cross the border into Arizona for the second time in a few days, asked the consul general of Mexico in Chicago to help them find him “dead or alive.”
“We fear the worst, because he could well have been left to die by people smugglers in the Sonora desert,” his sister Cristina told a press conference.
As she told it, the last time they knew anything of Romero, 41, was from a smuggler who called the family in the nearby city of Waukegan, Illinois, to demand payment of $1,500 to bring him across the border illegally.
That occurred in April, four months after Romero traveled to Mexico to see a woman he met on the Internet.
According to Cristina, it was the second time her brother tried to return to Illinois, because the first time he was detained by the Border Patrol and deported back to his country.
“The coyote seemed to know everything about my brother and we sent him the money, but we never heard any more about Juan de Dios,” she said.
The missing person first came to the United States in 1991, and after living 10 years in Los Angeles decided to move to Illinois to join his family. He settled in Waukegan until last Dec. 22 when he left for Mexico.
Cristina Romero said that her brother e-mailed her in April after failing in his first attempt to return.
“He told me he was in Hermosillo and that they were taking him to Sonorita to cross the desert,” she said.
Julie Contreras, of the League of United Latin American Citizens of Waukegan, said that her organization sought aid from the governments of Mexico and the United States to “find a human being left to his fate in the desert.”
“The coyotes are criminals, killers who should be pursued and wiped out for leaving our people to die in the desert,” she said.
“It’s unacceptable that despite the fences, patrols and militarization, the border remains an insecure no-man’s land,” she said.
Also taking part in the press conference were relatives of Jaime Pasillas, a Mexican who died 1˝ months ago in similar circumstances while crossing the desert, also on his way to Waukegan, a city with many residents of Mexican origin.
“I want justice for my son, I want them to find those guilty of his death,” his mother Maria said.
Mario Pasillas said that the family was given no help in the search either by the Mexican or the U.S. government, and that they found the body in an “Arizona morgue after driving all around the state asking everywhere they went.”
The consul general of Mexico in Chicago, Eduardo Arnal Palomera, said that he had sent the information about Juan de Dios Romero’s disappearance to the Mexican Consulates in the Arizona border towns of Nogales and Yuma.
“This consulate will be in touch with our consulates on the border to keep Juan’s family here in Chicago informed,” he said.