It is at this aid station that migrants, just dumped by Department of Homeland Security or privately contracted Wackenhut buses and made to walk into Mexico, can be cared for by NMD volunteers with medical training, as well as by Red Cross volunteers and Nogales locals.

This year's spring-breakers aside, veteran NMD volunteers make regular treks to the aid station — little more than a large tent augmented by a couple of trailers and surrounded by a new chain-link fence. The fence is to keep out so-called polleros, or "chicken wranglers," as coyotes are popularly referred to in these parts.

Tucson nurse Sarah Roberts, a longtime NMD volunteer who also participates in Samaritan patrols, visits the aid station every Wednesday. There she treats the massive foot blisters the migrants suffer, in addition to a variety of other ailments, such as sprained ankles, broken bones, lacerations from falling, and dehydration.

Former Presbyterian pastor John Fife helped lead the Sanctuary Movement in the 1980s, and co-founded No More Deaths in 2004.
Stephen Lemons
Former Presbyterian pastor John Fife helped lead the Sanctuary Movement in the 1980s, and co-founded No More Deaths in 2004.
Tohono O'odham tribe member Mike Wilson leaves water jugs in the sign of the cross for migrants on the reservation.
Stephen Lemons
Tohono O'odham tribe member Mike Wilson leaves water jugs in the sign of the cross for migrants on the reservation.

"In the hot weather, we see a lot of dehydration," she says. "And muscle cramps from being out in the desert heat with not enough water, not enough electrolytes."

That the migrants still have these complaints — after being held by the Border Patrol for a short duration or after going through federal court in Tucson (as a small percentage do, under a program called Operation Streamline) — is a sore point for activists like Roberts.

As a result, Roberts and other No More Deaths volunteers catalogued tales of migrant abuse and mistreatment at the hands of the Border Patrol in a 2008 report called Crossing the Line.

Available at www.nomoredeaths.org, the report calls for the humane treatment and care of migrants in short-term detention. The data comes from the Mariposa aid station, as well as from other migrant aid stations NMD partners with in the Sonora towns of Agua Prieta and Naco.

In Nogales, Sonora, the aid station is a model of cooperation between NMD and other aid groups, including Sonoran state agencies such as the International Migrant Affairs Directorate, known by the Spanish acronym DGAMI.

Omar Pinada, a coordinator with the agency, says that though the Mexican government provides the property the aid station sits on, everything else — from the fence around it to medical aid Roberts helps with — is volunteer oriented.

"They give us sugar, coffee, cups," says Pinada of the donations brought by NMD workers to the station. "The government doesn't have the money to buy all this stuff. No More Deaths helps us, so we help them."

After Roberts cares for those at the aid station who need it, she and other volunteers (if any have come with her from Tucson) make a five-minute walk to the nearby comedor (soup kitchen) run by Jesuit priests and Catholic nuns, with the help of the Diocese of Tucson and the Archdiocese of Hermasillo, Sonora.

At the comedor, which offers two meals daily prepared from food donated by charity groups, sometimes more than 100 recently repatriated migrants at a time squeeze themselves into the metal picnic tables there and gobble down whatever stew has been whipped up for them by volunteers.

Afterward, they comb through clothing and other items brought from Tucson by Roberts and other NMD activists. Roberts tends to their medical needs as best she can, sometimes bandaging a twisted leg or a swollen knee. Sometimes offering over-the-counter medications for cold or flu-like symptoms.

During one visit, she says, she fretted over one young man's abdominal pains. She ended up giving him Pepto-Bismol but worried that it could be something worse.

"I can't really do a proper examination here," she muttered.

Despite the frustration, Roberts is driven to help, in part, by the sights she's seen while out on patrol with No More Deaths and the Samaritans. She describes an incident she encountered near the Arivaca camp — an act of charity by the father of a migrating family toward a man whose sprained ankle Roberts had just treated.

"They didn't know each other," Roberts says. "The man with the family noticed that the man with the sprained ankle needed some good shoes, and he gave him his shoes. What courage and compassion."


No More Deaths is hardly an evangelical group, but a strand of religious inspiration runs through the organization, as well as through the entire social-justice community that has arisen to address Arizona's desert mortality rate.

Though many NMD volunteers eschew the term "religious," NMD touts a list of "Faith Based Principles for Immigration Reform" on its Web site. Training sessions for new recruits often take place in Southside Presbyterian's worship hall, modeled after a Native American kiva, or ceremonial room.

On the water jugs that volunteers put in the desert, there are often religious messages in Spanish inscribed for the benefit of the migrants. On some, the three crosses from Calvary are drawn. Yet, during training sessions, Christianity is not proselytized, and no prayers are said.

Gene Lefebvre acknowledges the spiritual element and notes that among NMD's founders were pastors, Catholic leaders, and rabbis. But he stressed that NMD is open to all comers, including non-believers.

"We call it a faith-based group, a group of people of faith and conscience," Lefebvre says, "but we deliberately wanted it to be open and not draw any lines about religion or anything like that.

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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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