Josseline Hernandez has become the unofficial patron saint of No More Deaths. Religious groups and reporters often make pilgrimages to the canyon where a shrine to Josseline has been erected.

Prayer cards bearing the image of the slender young girl in a candle-filled church are sometimes given out. And her tale inspired Tucson Weekly reporter Margaret Regan's new book, The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona-Mexico Borderlands.

Josseline's is one of many stories that help fuel No More Deaths. Another is that of Lucresia Dominguez, a mother of two who was abandoned by her coyote guides when she fell ill. Her 15-year-old son stayed behind with her but eventually left her side to seek help, wandering lost in the desert until he was found by the Border Patrol and repatriated back to Mexico.

Josseline's shrine in the canyon where her body was found, about 45 minutes from Byrd Camp.
Stephen Lemons
Josseline's shrine in the canyon where her body was found, about 45 minutes from Byrd Camp.
A Border Patrol vehicle parked at a facility the agency shares with the Tohono O'odham Police Department. On the reservation, the Border Patrol is a ubiquitous presence.
Stephen Lemons
A Border Patrol vehicle parked at a facility the agency shares with the Tohono O'odham Police Department. On the reservation, the Border Patrol is a ubiquitous presence.

NMD joined Dominguez's father, Cesareo, in a search for the missing woman's body, guided only by the recollections of his grandson, barred from re-entering the United States for lack of a visa. Before he found her body, Dominguez's dad discovered three more migrant corpses in the desert.

At a service for his daughter in Tucson, the distraught father praised No More Deaths volunteers.

"I thank God," he told a reporter for the Arizona Daily Star, "that . . . I found all these people who helped me and never left me, not even for a minute."

His daughter's story became the stuff of legend. It was retold as part of the independent film 7 Soles, which wove together several such accounts for a drama about duplicitous coyotes guiding a group of migrants toward a Phoenix drop-house. Screenings of the film in Phoenix and Tucson raised money for the organization.

Each NMD volunteer has his or her own personal cache of tragic experiences.

Laura Ilardo, a high school social worker who leads Phoenix's NMD chapter, still shivers at the thought of a "rape tree" she saw while on patrol in Arivaca. The tree was hung with a woman's garments, left as trophies, and the woman's backpack was spilled out onto the earth. It is a common enough sight in southern Arizona, where it is believed that most women who cross are sexually assaulted by their coyote guides.

Another time, in 2005, Ilardo came across a pregnant woman guided by two men. The woman had a bad sprain, and the men had stayed to help her walk as the rest of their party went ahead. Ilardo was raised Catholic but does not consider herself a practicing member of the faith. Still, the encounter with the woman had religious echoes for her.

"It definitely felt like the birth story of Jesus," llardo says. "It brought that home for me, though she didn't have [a donkey], obviously. They were just walking."

Because of strict NMD rules, she and other volunteers did not transport the woman (because her injuries were not life threatening), so they guided her to Byrd Camp. Because her helpers were not ill, they did not enter the camp; only the pregnant woman was allowed in.

Her sprain was treated, and she was given her options: She could turn herself over to the Border Patrol or she could continue on after she had rested and the swelling had gone down.

The woman chose to keep walking.


Because of the citations NMD humanitarians are battling in federal court, No More Deaths' activities hark back to the civil disobedience practiced in the 1960s by anti-war activists.

NMD humanitarians prefer the term "civil initiative," a concept devised in the 1980s by John Fife's fellow Sanctuary Movement leader, Jim Corbett. The principle is discussed at length in NMD's resource book, handed out to all prospective NMD volunteers.

The handbook defines civil initiative as "the right and responsibility of civil organizations to protect and directly assist victims of human rights violations when the government is the violator."

In other words, as the definition contends, "Humanitarian aid is never a crime." No More Deaths members do not regard leaving water in the desert as an offense, any more than they regard any of the migrant-friendly activities they engage in as criminal.

NMD's civil initiative is a call to action, one that draws volunteers from all over the United States, Canada, and Europe to participate in the group's efforts to assist migrants crossing the desert or assist those who have already crossed, been captured, and deported.

More than 3,000 people have volunteered with the organization since 2004. Every summer, peak season for volunteers, NMD averages about 200 participants.

Ilardo's Phoenix chapter organizes massive water drives, called aguatóns, during summer months and collects trucks full of socks, much needed by migrants. Last year, Ilardo says Phoenix NMD gathered 10,000 gallons of water for desert distribution.

Additionally, NMD offers a sort of alternative spring break for college students.

The group anticipates more than 170 volunteers during this year's spring break. Not all will pitch their tents on the grounds of the ramshackle Byrd Camp and hike for miles in treacherous, albeit beautiful, environs. Some will spend time in Mexico at an aid station in Nogales, Sonora. The station is at the Mariposa port of entry, on the west side of the Mexican border town.

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24 comments
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DWB
DWB

A sad story that needs to be told.Emil Pulsifer mentions overstayed visas. In California, we have "students" from distant areas of the world who have come on visas and gotten state scholarships. Some later brag that their visas have long-since expired and are in the country illegally.I met an elderly grandmother at the border. She had a valid Mexican passport and a visitor's visa. We were stopped at a secondary ICE checkpoint where federal agents went through her bags, holding each piece up, including her underwear, for everyone to see.During the past 20 years, I have crossed Arizona and New Mexico frequently. After I, a blue-eyed native of California riding in a vehicle with a California plate, was pulled over along I-10 by the occupation forces in green cars and ordered to prove that I was not an "illegal", I have made it a point to carry my US Passport, since they were not happy accepting my Calilfornia Drivers License and Social Security Card as ID. A sad day when elderly Americans must justify their passage across the land.

Joe
Joe

Sorry Emile, but it can be done. It needs to be done. And it would work because the Troops are paid either way. They can sit on a base and get paid or they can be out in the field getting paid. If they were not in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting a "War" that can't be won on the ground they could patrol 2000 miles or 10,000 miles they are doing it over there as we speak. It's both borders that need to be secured not just the Southern one. It's people like you that have no solutions, but when one is presented to you as I have presented one it's not "realistic". You sit there and try to berate my ideas when you have none to provide yourself. You are right about one thing, when the work visas expire there is no way to make sure they get another, again another problem that needs to be solved instead of just laying out the fact that it hasn't been. This state and country have Social Service Workers that could conceivably track work visa holders. All it takes are a few stipulations and that problem would be solved too. Again you act as though there are no solutions, when I have given you at least two right off the top of my head. Sit and bitch or do something. It isn't rocket science.

MIke
MIke

Illegal is illegal. These people are not immigrants, they are illegal immigrants. The very act of paying a coyote and then working in the US is a form of slavery and the groups that you have mentioned are complicit. What is wrong with doing it the legal and SAFE way? It is possible, it happens all the time. If that was done, then these groups would not be needed and the deaths would not happen. Why don't these people stay in their own country's and work to fix it so that MAYBE they wouldn't need to break laws in another country. Imagine a thriving successful Mexico!! The resources are there, it only needs its own citizens to make it happen

Emil Pulsifer
Emil Pulsifer

P.S. Joe, there is also nothing to stop someone from entering on a legal visa (work or otherwise) and then staying past the visa expiration. It isn't even a criminal act to do so: it's a civil violation. That's why all of the constitutional safeguards which normally apply to accused criminals in the United States have been held by the Department of Justice to be inapplicable in the case of undocumented workers -- they can be treated worse than the most heinous accused criminals because they have not been charged with a crime.

Emil Pulsifer
Emil Pulsifer

Joe,

Perhaps I should amend my comment to specify "realistic solution". You suggest that the southern border be closed to tourism and commercial traffic and militarized: in effect that the United States adopt policies similar to those of East Germany, but over a 2,000 mile border. That isn't realistic commercially, fiscally, logistically, or politically.

It also wouldn't work, since the northern border would also have to be similarly blocked: as I pointed out in my article, it's actually cheaper for someone to fly from Mexico City into Canada via commercial airline ($200 to $300 at the low end), as a tourist, then rent a car, make their way to the border, and then walk across at any of numerous, virtually unpatrolled stretches, than it is for someone to pay a coyote $1,500 to $2,000 to start, and then perhaps more as ransom once in the United States and held at a drophouse.

Joe
Joe

Emil Pulsifer, There are solutions that can be put into place, but that would take closing off the border to anyone without a work Visa. It would also take a strong military presence on the border. The problem is that our military is stretched so thin the two wars would have to end for it to work. And we all know that without the wars going on there would be higher unemployment rates. And we can't have that. You're right, New Times can write about what they "conceive" to be injustices on the immigration front. Anyone that is aiding and abiding is just as guilty as the ones crossing illegally. No matter how you slice it, your own article stated as much. These folks "helping" the illegals crossing are not actually helping they are hindering the efforts set forth by Homeland Security. Do they know the difference between a Mexican and a person of Arabic decent? Let me answer that for you, No they don't!!! So in essence they may be helping terrorists into our country without even knowing it. And one last thing, very rarely does anything good come from a religious organization. Case in point, the Popes recent visit to Africa. He tells the people there to not wear condoms. In a country that has been ravaged with aids he says this? Because it's not "Gods Will"? This is but one example of where religious organizations do more harm than good. Just like the one New Times has described. Leave it to the pros

Emil Pulsifer
Emil Pulsifer

Joe and Bruno,

Regarding "solutions" New Times can report on social injustice and flaws in the system with greater effect if they don't advocate particular policy positions on questions like immigration. Note also that individual staff writers have differing opinions on the issue. Finally, there may be no easy solutions to advocate.

As for e-Verify, it's voluntary in most states. Only about 2.6 percent of employers nationally use it. In Arizona, where it's mandatory, there is no civil or criminal penalty specified for failure to use it. It's simply a means for businesses to avoid legal culpability should it be discovered that their employees are undocumented.

It's also ineffective and has pushed immigrants away from the use of fictitious Social Security numbers and toward ID theft from individuals living or dead. More than half of the job applicants who should have been denied authorization to work were incorrectly approved by e-Verify:

http://www.azcentral.com/arizo...

Here's my take on the issue, and (I hope) a useful overview:

http://roguecolumnist.typepad....

bucky
bucky

It is still aiding and abetting in the commission of a crime. Give them water. Then call ICE.

Bruno
Bruno

Joe, you are looking at the big picture. Most people don't even try. There are thousands of personal tragedies like Joseline, and there will be more. Until there is effective interior enforcement in the U.S., the migrants will continue leaving countries where there is no future for their children.

Why would U.S. business leaders protest against programs like "E-Verify?" Why do U.S. commercial farmers purposely hire illegal aliens, instead of sponsoring foreign workers with visas? There is no numerical limit to agricultural work visas, unlike most other visas.

The answer is GREED. If you have to treat all your workers like U.S. citizens, you will lose some profit. And why would countries like Mexico and Guatemala change anything? The U.S. takes care of their working poor, and most of the impoverished villages are completely empty of able bodied men. Men who might be inclined to force change in their own governments if they were unable to support their families by working illegally in the U.S.

Joe
Joe

(Blood is thicker than water)While I'm 100% against the treatment of detainees legal and illegal at Sheriff Arpaio's gulags I can't seem to grasp why New Times is on an open border crusade? The folks that cross the desert are well aware of the dangers in doing so. To enable them should be as criminal as them crossing into this country illegally. What happened to getting work visas than waiting in line for a green card. Instead of sending all of the money back to relatives in Mexico they could be saving for citizenship into this country. New Times writers complain about fences or any other type of deterrent, but they have offered no solution to the problems. The Right can't come up with solutions for anything, but boy oh boy can they bitch. Has New Times taken on that persona?

Crow
Crow

This article shows the current mess very well. While you can find NMD out in the desert all year, you will rarely see any minutemen out there unless its for a Photo Op or to shootinnocent children like last summer.

Travis
Travis

Kevin; You are a worthless fool. Get your fix for real journalism and go watch Fox, bitch.

Red dawn, the thought of someone coming over the border to take your menial job away is threatening, I'm sure. Please when your emotions get the best of you, calm down before showing the world how illiterate you are. Calling someone a "commie" for being concerned with human life, is pathetic. As for the minutemen, well If you weren't such the message board warrior, perhaps you'd be out there defending your misguided beliefs and ideology. However you can't show your support with action, you are lazy and equally worthless.

Stephen, great job, it's nice to read a story that doesn't center on Arpaio, that douche is on his way out anyway.

Red Dawn
Red Dawn

What do you expect from a buch of commies in Tucson? Traitors every one of them. Helping illegals invade our country. CROSSINGTHEBORDER to aid and abet the enemy. Where are the Minutemen when you need themm?

Arizona, State in Decay!
Arizona, State in Decay!

Stephen, You've outdone yourself again. Great article! The people have no idea what is going on in Arizona -- certainly not the America I once knew. This will be a shameful chapter in America's history.

Dennis your comment shows the way -- too bad the military/security industrial complex has taken all our money with nothing left for humanity -- the people, the children, education and community services that all families could benefit from. Instead, those in control chose to close the schools, libraries and child care, so parents can't work. The officials want to maintain an ignorant public who have no voice.

Not My America!
Not My America!

Stephen, You've outdone yourself again. Great article. People have no idea what is going on is this state that certainly is not the America I once knew.

Dennis your comment shows the way -- too bad the military / security industrial complex has taken all our money with nothing left for the people, humanity, education and community services that all families could benefit from. Close the schools and libraries and child care, so parents can't work. The officials want to maintain and ignorant public who have no voice.

Dennis Gilman
Dennis Gilman

It's encouraging to read an article with so many of the people I admire in it. People like Dan Millis, Laura Luardo and others have been my greatest source of inspiration. The members of No more Deaths are the true heros of the immigration movement.

It is an undesputedable fact that White Americans have migrated to Arizona at a rate of over 60% while all others (including those crossing the desert) have migrated at a rate of approximately 30% since 1980. How can anyone deny who the real invaders are? Who is really responsible for the mess this State is in?

Groups like No More Deaths give humanity hope. Humanitarian aid is never a crime but is the responsibilityof all of us.

If we continue to support the current border policies it will destroy us financially. It already has morally. It's time to rethink what we have become as a Nation. More of the same will only cause more deaths. Death as a deterrence is an obscenely cruel policy. It should be stopped immediately.

We need humane solutions. The militaristic ones have obviously failed. Humane one's are cheaper, better for the environment and better for our souls.

No human Being is illegal.

Lydia G
Lydia G

Stephen, this is a wonderful article! It brought me to tears often and I took breaks because my heart broke to read the stories of children leaving their dying mother or sister behind and the undeterred conviction of the volunteers. I had to stop reading several times and come back. Wow!

I truly hope that God will reward all the NMD volunteers for their valiant efforts and service.

I also hope that John Morton reads this.

This is such an ugly chapter in American history and we have not told the story enough.

Stephen, congratulations and thank you for telling the story.

Kevin
Kevin

Do you really believe this filth is journalism? This is a pathetic attempt to make law-breakers look like "good guys". The border is called a border for a reason, not that these lame folks would understand anything beyond their own self promotion of how "humane" they are. I hope the Border Patrol jails all of them. You want open borders? Go somewhere else.

dennis
dennis

There are millions of citizens from countries around the world- some far poorer and worse off than Mexico- who want to come to America, live and work in America, become American citizens. It is high time that everyone has an equal chance at the American dream. End illegal immigration once and for all and revamp the legal process for immigration so that it is fair and equitable for everyone around the world.

As for the fence, If it was properly finished and implemented there would not be illegal immigrants in the desert to die. Perhaps it is time to consider fighting for a Mexico that is the paradise it should be and could be instead of fighting for safer illegal immigration.

Who truly cares? Not Arizona
Who truly cares? Not Arizona

"Who cares about the people" thinks Margaret Regan's book is a must-read. Whatever one thinks about illegal immigration Arizona's leaders offer no constructive solutions. They are more concerned with building the border military complex and mass incarceration and collecting billions from the Federal government to build it. Sealing off the borders is not the answer. The people live in an occupied zone. Helicopters going overhead and the desert flower and fauna in ruin. Hunting down the farmers and their children is accomplishing nothing but harm.

Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen

Stephen, Great job presenting the side no one gets to hear. We come here to find out what truly is going on in Arizona and the cost of many innocent lives.

The human element has been missing from the barrage of racist bills being proposed. Arizona will pay a huge price for the hatred and bigotry their "leaders" (tyrants) reign of terror has been played out across America. This will be a sad chapter in Arizona's history taking the state back decades.

Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen

Stephen, Great job presenting the side no gets to hear. We come here to find out what truly going on in Arizona and the cost of many innocent lives.

 
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