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Frontera de Cristo remembers migrant shot and killed by border agent

‘We resolve to continue to speak out for reforms in immigration policy’

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

One of the pilgrimage participants took a moment to pray for Carmelo Cruz Marcos at his gravesite in the desert. (Photo by Lucy Nigh)

LOUISVILLE — On Feb. 19 in a remote, mountainous area of the desert 30 miles northeast of Douglas, Arizona, 31-year-old Carmelo Cruz Marcos was shot and killed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent who was trying to arrest him.

The Border Patrol agent, who was not identified, said he feared for his life when Marcos threw a punch and reached for a large rock. He, in turn, shot Marcos three times in the face, chest and abdomen.

The Border Patrol agent’s statement was shared five days after the killing through a press release from the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office. The investigation is ongoing.

Rocks were also cited in the death of Carlos La Madrid, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen who was shot in the back multiple times by Border Patrol agents in Douglas while he had both hands and feet on the fence trying to escape into Mexico. The shooting was deemed justifiable.

Vicki Gaubeca, the director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition, said, “Border agents have for a long time used ‘rocking’ as a pretext to shoot someone without any evidence of actual rocking or imminent threat. The alleged rocks are often identified by the agent without any forensic verification that the person shot had touched the rock. It should be noted that there has not been a single recorded Border Patrol agent fatality from being hit by a rock. The number one cause of on-duty agent deaths is vehicle accidents.”

The story didn’t make headlines around the country. Since 1998, more than 8,000 migrants have died along the 1,954-mile border between the United States and Mexico, according to the Border Patrol, although the true figure is probably higher.

But Marcos was not forgotten.

Mission co-worker the Rev. Mark Adams joined the School Sisters of Notre Dame and others for a special remembrance ceremony. They drove nearly an hour into the desert to be near the place where Marcos was killed, placing a cross at the site with his name routed in the white wooden cross.

A group from Frontera de Cristo, the School Sisters of Notre Dame and other faith leaders journeyed into the desert to pray for a 31-year-old man killed by border control agents. (Photo by Lucy Nigh)


In a blog post, Sister Lucy Nigh, a School Sister of Notre Dame and one of the leaders of the ceremony, wrote:

“We prayed that our ceremony of honoring his life of 31 years would bring some comfort to his family and we resolved to continue to speak out for the reforms in immigration policy that could make it possible for fathers like Carmelo to find employment legally. Students from the Moody Bible Institute joined us. Their vision for justice and a world without violence strengthened our crying out to God, whose compassionwe pray, will bring healing to the anguish of a fatherless family and to the family of the Border Patrol agent responsible for this death.”

Earlier, Adams and members of the binational ministry Frontera de Cristo, based in Douglas and Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico, together with other members of the faith community, participated in a weekly Healing Our Borders Prayer Vigil. Marcos’ mother, three children, sister and other family members joined via Zoom from Puebla, Mexico. They said his only goal was to bring stability to his growing family.

Every Tuesday, the group walks with a wagonload of crosses and stops to read some of the names of the 351 migrants who have died in Cochise County. They have made this pilgrimage for more than 20 years, since Dec. 10, 2000.

The Rev. Mark Adams has served on the border for more than 20 years. (Contributed photo)

“His mother through her tears said, ‘My son was not a robber. He was going to work hard so his children could have a better life, a roof that does not leak,’” said Adams. “While he was shot by a single agent, he was yet another victim of our government’s cruel ‘prevention through deterrence’ policy that pushes people into dangerous areas. We join his mother in demanding full transparency and accountability of the circumstances that led to his death, and we must demand for a legal way for people who are coming to work roofing our houses, picking our fruit, processing our meat, cleaning our hotels, caring for our elderly and our young — and we must demand an end to cruel policies and misconduct that cause suffering and take the lives of hundreds of sons and daughters, mothers and fathers each year.”

Adams said it’s important to remember that human beings are all created in the divine image, beloved by God.

“Their lives were cut short in the deserts around us,” he said. “We pray that God’s loving and comforting arms will embrace the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons who will not be celebrating with their loved ones; and we commit ourselves to living into the vision of hope, restoration and wholeness spoken by Isaiah: ‘Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.’”

The Healing Our Borders vigil takes place every Tuesday evening at 7:15 p.m. Eastern Time. If you are interested in participating, email Adams at

To support the ministry of Mark Adams and Miriam Escobar, a gift can be made in their honor. Click here to give Mission Personnel Support. Mission co-workers are notified when a gift is made in their honor.

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