JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) – Sitting in a relative’s home in Juarez, Napoleon Sepulveda talks about why his son decided to try crossing into the U.S. late last month.
“His desire was to go to the other side to progress a little bit. We live in a little ranching community where there is hardly any work. He had just gotten together with his wife. He did not have a house; he was living with me,” Sepulveda said. “His dream was to go and save for his house because here in Mexico jobs are poorly paid.”
Sepulveda said he got a call a few days ago from a relative in Austin, telling him he learned that his son, Jesus Ivan Sepulveda Martinez, 22, of Ceballos, Durango, Mexico, was shot to death Sept. 27 in the desert south of Sierra Blanca, Texas.
The shooting claimed the life of a migrant that officials with the Texas Department of Public Safety investigating the case have not publicly identified. It also left a migrant woman hospitalized with a gunshot wound. Two Hudspeth County men, twin brothers Mark and Mike Sheppard, have been arrested on manslaughter charges in connection with the shooting. Mark Sheppard said his brother thought he was shooting at a javelina in the brush.
Border Report reached out to DPS for confirmation of the victims’ identities. DPS responded with an email saying the investigation is ongoing and “no further information is available at this time.”
The Mexican consulate in El Paso would neither confirm nor deny the identities. However, on Monday it sent Border Report a news release stating it had interviewed the surviving victim, a Mexican national.
“The consulate’s Protection Department is in direct contact with local and federal authorities investigating the case,” the release said. “We interviewed the hospitalized Mexican victim, who is receiving the proper assistance from the consulate.”
Napoleon Sepulveda said he is seeking assistance for a humanitarian visa that would allow him to recover his son’s body.
“When people go to the U.S., sometimes things go wrong. I would like for the authorities to give those men the maximum punishment, that they do not let them go free,” he said.
Sandra Alicia Cardenas, Jesus Ivan Sepulveda Martinez’s wife, echoed the plea that the migrant’s death does not go unpunished.
“He did not deserve that. (Those men) could have called Immigration, they could have done something else but not shot them. They treated them like animals, they tried to hunt them like animals,” Cardenas said. “He (Jesus Ivan) was just looking for a better future for our children […] He wanted us to have our own house, our own car. That was his dream.”
Silvia Carrillo said she heard from her niece Brenda Berenice Casias Carrillo just after the shooting. In an audio recording she shared with KTSM and Border Report, a woman can be heard speaking in Spanish: “The boys are well. Only me and the boy. We were shot. The boy died.”
Carrillo on Monday held a sign outside the Juarez home where both families from Durango gathered. The sign said, “Queremos justicia (We want justice)”
“What they did with my niece was not right. She was going there to work to provide for her children. The day she left, she told me, ‘I’m going to the United States.’ I told her to take care,” the aunt said.
Carrillo wonders why the assailant or assailants targeted people whose only intent was to do honest work.
“They had no reason to shoot her. They were not animals, they are human beings, people who were looking for work, trying to get their families ahead,” she said.
Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights in El Paso, said Mexican migrants are receiving unfair treatment by the federal government because they are not allowed to come in as easily as Venezuelans and other nationalities that are released shortly after crossing in between ports of entry.
Mexicans and most Central Americans are expelled immediately, which forces them to come into the country through dangerous routes, such as the desert and mountains near Sierra Blanca.
“The U.S. refuses to give Mexicans asylum because they don’t believe there is a broken government in Mexico. We believe the opposite. There is unprecedented violence in Mexico and the U.S. should be facilitating humanitarian visas, asylum and special work visas,” Garcia said.
Mexico is in the midst of its most violent three-year period in history due to warring drug cartels whose violence has displaced thousands of families in Guerrero, Michoacan, Zacatecas, Guanajuato and Durango, among others.
Garcia said he believes the shooting was a hate crime and should be prosecuted as such. He further believes the heated debate over unauthorized migration and the “anti-immigrant vitriol” being used by conservative candidates on the campaign trail is likely to lead to more violence against migrants.