Eleven survivors of a border crossing that left 14 others dead in the scorching Arizona desert are on the verge of attaining a piece of the life they risked so much for.
The Mexican men are expected to be released from U.S. custody today and will be allowed to work in the Phoenix area, said Assistant U.S. Atty. Michael Shelby. Their jobs were arranged with the help of the Border Patrol.
U.S. Magistrate Morton Sitver ordered Monday that the men be taken to San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico, across the border from Yuma, so they can reenter the United States with temporary work permits, Shelby said.
From there they will return to Phoenix and be released for the duration of the trial against a man accused of being one of the smugglers who brought them into the country and abandoned them without water in the remote Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge.
The men, from the Mexican states of Veracruz and Guerrero, are considered key witnesses against Jesus Lopez-Ramos, 20, of Sonoyta, Mexico, the 12th survivor of the deadly crossing.
Lopez-Ramos and the other 11 have been held by the U.S. since Border Patrol agents found them in the desert east of Yuma last month.
The witnesses gave videotaped statements last week in which they described their harrowing crossing, which some survived by drinking their own urine and breaking open cacti for the moisture.
Left without water or food for at least three days in temperatures soaring above 115 degrees, the men suffered from extreme dehydration, organ failure and delusions.
After they were found, the survivors had said they wanted to come to the United States to work a while and eventually go back to their families in Mexico.
The government arranged for the group to have one month of paid housing, Assistant U.S. Atty. Susan Bradley said.
Shelby said the men cannot leave Arizona without the court's permission.