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    The Aid Workers of Arizona’s Borderlands

    The Aid Workers of Arizona’s Borderlands


    The U.S policy of “deterrence” has turned the rugged deserts and mountains of southern Arizona into a graveyard.

    The Tucson Samaritans meet every Tuesday night at an adobe church on the south side of the city. After a moment of silence—for migrants crossing the neighboring desert, for families separated in detention—the volunteers report on the week’s “water drops,” the day hikes they take into remote areas to leave jugs of water along migrant routes.

    At one recent meeting, 11 trips were recorded. One group had found a pile of backpacks, evidently left by migrants after they’d been arrested by Border Patrol. Another had found water bottles, painted black so as not to reflect light. Overall, little of the water left by previous Samaritan outings had been consumed, the volunteers reported. “Not much traffic at all,” one said.

    If there is an emergency along the southern border, it is not the fantasy described by President Trump. In reality, as border residents know firsthand, arrests of undocumented migrants there peaked two decades ago. It has since dropped by more than 75 percent.

    What has increased, dramatically, is the death rate among those who do try to cross. This uptick is a consequence of “prevention through deterrence,” a U.S. policy started in the 1990s that redirects migrants away from official ports of entry and other traditional crossing points and into more dangerous terrain, a phenomenon known as the “funnel effect.”

    Deterrence has turned the rugged deserts and mountains of southern Arizona into a graveyard. Here, crossing the desert on foot can take a week. Temperatures fall below freezing in the winter and exceed 115 degrees in the summer. There is little shade. If a migrant isn’t picked up by Border Patrol, she is likely to succumb to dehydration or exposure.

    “In one instance we found someone lying in the middle of the road, face down,” said Carli Flores, a 22-year-old Samaritan who has been leading water drops for a little more than a year. “He had drunk bad water, and he had been lost for several days, and he hadn’t eaten in a long time. We brought him back to consciousness. You could see the fear in his eyes.”

    The Tucson Samaritans and another group with a similar mission, No More Deaths, were formed in the early 2000s, when the funnel effect started to yield conspicuous results in the Arizona desert. As the flow of migration continued to shift in other ways, more humanitarian groups cropped up in response to changing needs on the ground in Arizona’s borderlands.

    The Kino Border Initiative, which is based in Nogales and operates on both sides of the border, was founded in 2008 to serve the steady stream of migrants being deported to Mexico from the U.S. At its aid center on the Mexico side, known as el comedor, deportees line up for their first hot meal since being released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

    Sixty miles north, back in Tucson, is Casa Alitas, a halfway house for Central American families seeking asylum in the States that was started in 2014 by Catholic Community Services. What began in a four-bedroom home has expanded to include a sprawling Benedictine monastery on the east side of town, formerly home to the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

    On a recent Sunday evening, the monastery was filled to capacity: more than 100 migrants, many of them children. A few late arrivals were going through an intake process. Scores were eating dinner in a large dining room. Some were receiving medical exams and flu shots. “Sometimes the adults have been feeling very ill for days,” said Teresa Cavendish, the shelter’s director.

    In an art room upstairs, kids were busily working on colorful drawings of birds, turtles, and at least one donkey. A few floors down, in a donation room, parents were picking out secondhand shoes and winter coats. Littered on the floor were thin strips of what looked like tin foil—pieces of the metallic blankets that migrants are given in ICE custody, Cavendish explained. “The girls rip off small sections of the Mylar blankets and use them as hair ties.”


    Photographed by Alex Webb / Magnum Photos
    Special thanks to Teresa Cavendish, Caroline Isaacs, Genevieve Schroeder

    大豪门彩票

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