About DukeEngage Tucson 2010

Immigration is perhaps the single largest domestic challenge facing both the United States and Mexico today. People die nearly every week attempting to cross the border. Hostilities against immigrants in the U.S. rise daily. Local, state, and international relations are increasingly strained.

For eight weeks this summer, seven students have been given the opportunity to travel to Tucson, Arizona and Nogales, Mexico to study the many faces of immigration. Following two weeks of meetings with local activists, a Border Patrol agent, a federal public defender, lawyers, members of the Tohono O’odham Nation, maquiladora owners, Grupos Beta employees, migrants, and local farmers, we will spend six weeks partnered with Southside Day Labor Camp, BorderLinks, or Humane Borders in order to further immerse ourselves in the issues of immigration.

This blog chronicles our experiences and our perspectives on what we learn while here in Arizona. We hope our stories are interesting and informative.


Friday, July 30, 2010

"No one deserves to die in the desert for lack of a glass of water"

(Gallon jug left along migrant routes in the Arizona desert, photo taken by Sarah)

It is virtually impossible for a migrant to carry enough water to make it through the desert from Mexico to Tucson without becoming severely dehydrated. Humanitarian groups such as No More Deaths and Samaritans put out gallons of water such as the one above along well known migrant trails in the hopes of reducing the number of deaths that occur in the desert due to dehydration and other heat related illnesses.

In July alone, 57 bodies have been brought in to the Pima County morgue. The majority had died within the previous week. The morgue is so overrun with bodies that some have to be stored in cooler trucks outside. Many of these bodies have been rendered unidentifiable by exposure. Others lack any identifying documents or characteristics. The New York Times released a recent article on this topic: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/29/us/29border.html?scp=1&sq=immigration%20deaths&st=cse.

Though the number of people crossing the desert has decreased this summer due to increased border enforcement, high summer temperatures, and a poor US economy, the number of deaths has increased. This is because the border wall and increased border militarization is forcing migrants in to more hostile and dangerous territory where they are forced to walk for days through the desert in order to enter the US. Those who cannot make it--whether they are injured or otherwise physically unable to walk--are left behind. The result is that more people are dying because they are unprepared for the harsh conditions of the desert.

(Humane Borders truck with water barrels, photo taken by Sarah)

Humane Borders, another humanitarian group that maintains water stations throughout the Arizona desert (see image above), has compiled a map indicating the location of migrant deaths throughout the desert. The map can be found here: http://www.humaneborders.org/news/documents/cumulativemap20002007.pdf. As can be seen on the map, a majority of the deaths occurring in the desert happen in a specific valley called the Baboquivari Valley on the Tohono O'odham Nation. This high death rate may be due to the fact that Nation leaders will not allow humanitarian groups to leave water along this valley.

When you look at the death statistics, whether or not migrants should be entering the United States becomes irrelevant. What matters is that people are dying and that they are often dying because they need a drink of water.

(Socks left by migrant along trail in Arizona desert, photo taken by Sarah)

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