Humanitarian Groups Cropped Up in Response / by Karie Luidens

Water Jug in Desert.jpg

You’ve just learned that hundreds, maybe thousands of people have died of exposure trying to cross the miles of desert just south of the city where you live a comparatively leisurely life of running water and grocery runs.

What do you do next?

Here’s how some have responded.

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.

by ABBY AGUIRRE | photographed by ALEX WEBB

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. […]

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.