LEAGUE CITY — The 17-year-old’s lifeless body was frozen in a sitting position in solitary-confinement at the Galveston County Jail.

Arturo Chavez’s back was flush against a 7-foot partition for the cell’s shower. A blue blanket was twisted into a noose, with one end wrapped around his neck, the other tied to a shower head.

He apparently hanged himself about 48 hours after being arrested for what started as an illegal left turn.

I have a son, he is almost seven, I can’t imagine him risking his life, crossing the Rio Grande, at the tender age of 13, hoping to attain the American dream. This is a story that exemplifies a crisis with our Southern neighbors and with our broken immigration system. Yes, its true, albiet he did it without proper papers, this boy risked his life to come here to create a better life for himself and for his family, imagine the inner strength it must have taken to make such a journey.

Arturo Chavez, 17, after being arrested for making an illegal left hand turn, reportedly panicked, attempting to flee from his jail cell. According to jail officers he was tasered and clubbed while attempting to escape over a fence.

From all accounts, he was a model immigrant, taking classes to learn English, proud of his Mayan heritage but also proud to be here in America, his ankle braclet displaying the red, white, and blue colors. He worked hard as a bus boy, hoping to move up to waiter.  People will point out that he came here “illegally”, that he should not have been driving without a valid drivers license, and insurance.  I agree with all that, but what I am wondering, is where is our soul as a nation, that we don’t raise this child up, praise him for risking so much, for being so brave to strive for the American dream as a mere child.  How many teenagers do you know that exhibit such desire to better themselves and better their loved ones?

Those who knew Chavez said, like many undocumented immigrants, he feared any run-in with authorities as it would likely mean he would be deported.

He left Central America when he was 13 and wanted more out of life than he could get with tips loading baggage at a bus station.

Relatives say it took him nearly 15 days to get to Houston, including sneaking into Mexico and riding a passenger bus north.

He crossed the Rio Grande and hiked through South Texas.

Human smugglers demanded $3,500 to guide him, a hefty sum met with help from family and friends.

In Houston, he was known for his hustle and held out hope his improving English skills would get him promoted from busboy to waiter.

Chavez’s death was a mystery as much as a shock, said Mario Garcia, who owns the restaurant where Chavez worked.

“I don’t understand how you can go from making a mistake to losing your life, I’m dumbfounded by it,” Garcia said. “There are two sides to every story, and the truth is probably somewhere right in the middle.”

$100 sent home weekly
The kid known by his family as niño, Spanish for boy, had come a long way since leaving his indigenous village. He was sending home at least $100 a week to help his mother, father and sister.

He was not only working full time, but attending Clear Creek High School’s program to help newly arrived international students.

He wore woven bracelets made of blue and white yarn — the colors of Guatemala’s flag — as well as an anklet with the U.S.A.’s red, white and blue.

“He was very proud of his Mayan heritage,” said Elizabeth Laurence, one of his teachers. “He was a feisty young fellow, popular and wanted to learn English very much. He wasn’t timid; he tried to use it.”

Things were going well with his girlfriend, Jhoseline Martell, whom he met at school.

As the police cruiser’s lights flashed behind him near Louisiana Street and League City Parkway, Chavez dialed Martell on his cell phone and stuffed it in his pocket.

“He said the police have stopped me, just listen,” recalled Martell, 15.

He normally rode a bicycle to avoid such trouble, but he had recently bought a used green Honda sedan.

He had no driver’s license, no insurance and what turned out later to be a fake identification card.

He was arrested and taken to jail. His mugshot was taken while he wore the red shirt from his job as a busboy.

207 Thoughts to “Undocumented Teenager Commits Suicide After Arrest”

  1. Robb Pearson

    Mando stated (at 28. August 2008, 14:31):

    It’s nothing less then a miracle that a bunch of poor and untrained peasents fought off the largest organized military in the know world. All at the expense of their families which went without while their husbands/fathers fought for a great cause against insane odds.

    Once again, Mando, you completely leap over and entirely miss the point I clearly made. MANY of the Colonists in Washington’s army may have been poor, but not all of them were. MANY of the Colonists in Washington’s army may have been untrained, but not all of them were. As for “peasants”, you’ll really have to explain what in the world a “peasant” was in 1770’s America.

    HOWEVER — and I hope you catch this point (though I have my doubts) — the poorness of some and the militarily untrained status of some does not at all translate into a war that was a fight for survival against hunger or poverty. The Revolutionary War was the military expression of the Colonists’ fight for political self-determination.

    And just to punctuate this fact, nowhere in the Declaration of Independence, which made the case for revolution, is “hunger and poverty” mentioned as something which the Colonies were suffering and which they needed to fight against. Read for yourself by clicking here.

    Today, Mexico (as just one example) is a democratic country. Yet millions live in hunger and poverty. Hunger and poverty are their main oppressors. Hunger and poverty are what they battle against. The fight for sustenance and livable wages that can provide it is what defines their central war.

    And if many of them who suffer would come to this country for the sake of their survival, it is our human obligation to render compassionate aid and assist them in their battle, their “legal” status being completely and utterly irrelevant.

  2. El Guapo

    There’s more to the story:
    GALVESTON — An autopsy report released Thursday is unlikely to resolve a dispute over whether a 17-year-old illegal immigrant was beaten by League City police before hanging himself in the Galveston County Jail.

    The report said Arturo Chavez had a half-inch wound on the right side of his head, black eyes and marks on his back, but reached no conclusion as to how the wounds were inflicted.

    “There is blunt trauma,” said Stephen Pustilnik, Galveston County chief medical examiner. “Whether you would call that a beating, I don’t know. He could have hit his head on something or something could have hit him in the head.”………………

    Unsure about the cause of his black eyes, jail nurses placed Chavez in a special cell for prisoners with communicable diseases that prevents air from circulating to other parts of the lockup, according to sheriff’s reports.

    Reports said he complained that his eyes hurt and that he seemed to be tolerating his cell even though he felt claustrophobic.

    The cell is next to the padded suicide cells that are supposed to be under constant observation and checked every 15 minutes.

    The reports show Chavez was screened, and his answers gave no indication of suicidal tendencies.

    A guard reported that Chavez, referred to as Batentzun in the reports, and another inmate were watching Apollo 13 on television from their cells about 6:40 p.m.

    Chavez asked the guard several times for permission to make a phone call, but was denied because he already had made a call that day, the report says.

    About 10:19 p.m. the inmate across the hall from Chavez’s cell reported seeing him hanging in his cell.

    Chavez had tied a blanket to a shower head, pulled it across a partition and tied the other end around his neck.

    Guards and nurses cut him down, administered CPR and used a defibrillator in a failed attempt to restart the heart with an electrical jolt, all to no avail, the reports say.

    A log sheet shows that he was taken to the University of Texas Medical Center at Galveston, where he was pronounced dead about 11:11 p.m.


  3. hello

    Hi El Guapo, am I missing something? Didn’t this kid try to escape from the police when they tried to detain him? Maybe that is where some of the other injuries occured.

  4. El Guapo

    He was where he was because he already had injuries when he was arrived. There’s no question about that. Unfortunately the autopsy report doesn’t answer all our questions.

  5. Elena


    Great response to Mando! I wonder if it will penetrate.

    On a seperate note, how do you respond to the argument, “well, we just can’t save them all” , “we have to have control over the health and well being of our own country”, “opening our borders will contribute to the economic instability of the United States.”

    I struggle with my own position regarding the best immigration policy and these are questions I have difficulty answering, even for myself.

  6. Elena

    Hi Hello,
    I do not have friends or family who are here undocumented or “illegal” (my great aunt Sara is long gone and so are her “illegal” alien “aiders and abetters” ). I simply believe that the immigration debate has been seen in this country before, on more than one occasion throughout our history, and that the arguments are always the same, it’s just the target that changes. I have given facts to support my position, both economically and historically. I have posted several threads with factual information. At the heart of my concern is that this debate has reduced our fellow human beings to a non person status, I find that extremely offensive and unacceptable. I was raised to believe, that when one group of people is villified and scapegoated for a nations ills, you better watch out, you could be next. That the KKK and Neo-Nazi’s have seen a tremendous surge in membership due to the rhetoric surrounding immigration and should concern any reasonable thinking person.

    I don’t pretend to be an expert on immigration or econmics, I simply do my own research on come to my own conclusions. I have debated Save The MC fairly and respectfully.

  7. Elena

    Save the Middle Class,
    Maybe I am missing something. When and who attacked you for making your arguments? Who said you were referencing anything about my being Jewish? I believe that many people, like yourself, are simply being misled. And I have found that we have our own facts to support our positions. It’s our own personal world view that dictates what “facts” we believe are credible and which “facts” are not.

    Here is a great review of a book that exemplifies where stand on immigration. I do have a life other than this blog so I really don’t have the time to create the summary right now. Much of what is in this review has been debated on anti, very fairly and openly, with facts to support the suppositions. How about this, I will try to put this book up for debate on a thread next week and I hope you come back to debate.


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