No more deaths,” benketaro

August 14, 2018; Colorlines

No More Deaths is a coalition of community and faith-based groups based in Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona, whose volunteers provide food, water, and medical aid to undocumented immigrants crossing into the United States from Mexico. Volunteers are also trained to document what they see as human rights violations by immigration officials that result in reports like those here and here.

The advocacy group works with many others to enact Faith-Based Principles for Immigration Reform. They have a signed an “agreement of hospitality” with the Mexican government to provide aid to deported migrants on the Mexican side of the border. Many Facebook followers support their mission. Founded in 2004, No More Deaths is a ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson.

No More Deaths’ efforts to confront border enforcement policies and practices they believe have created a crisis of migrant deaths in the desert are met with retaliation and criminalization from US authorities. In the summer of 2017, for example, NPQ reported on how the US Border Patrol raided a No More Deaths aid camp and arrested four patients who were receiving medical care. In January 2018, the US Border Patrol arrested a No More Deaths volunteer aid worker on felony “harboring” charges for giving food and water to two undocumented immigrants. (The case is ongoing.) Colorlines reports that a total of nine No More Deaths volunteers are presently facing federal charges.

On its FAQ page, No More Deaths offers this advice to prospective volunteers:

We are very clear about the legal parameters of our work in the desert with volunteers, and we cover our protocols extensively in training. We do not do anything illegal, and our work is supported by a team of lawyers. Unfortunately, this does not mean we are immune from legal threats and challenges. You should carefully consider your willingness to accept the legal risk.

Despite our nation’s vibrant civil society and constitutional protections, some US laws and practices, particularly in the area immigration, are said to violate internationally recognized human rights. At great personal cost, No More Deaths volunteers seek to provide life-saving support to those whose lives are at risk and for whom the courts and the political process offer little protection.

The No More Deaths volunteers work in and around the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Arizona. The National Park Service says this region “might well be the loneliest international boundary on the continent.”

But the region is also one of the deadliest for migrants trying to enter the US through the desert. At least 44 percent of the recovered human remains in Arizona have been found in this region, according to public records analyzed by Humane Borders.

In this current petition to the US Attorney’s Office and land management agencies, No More Deaths concludes with this assertion:

Conservation of public lands and conservation of human life are compatible moral imperatives. We demand that your agency acknowledge the gravity and severity of the humanitarian crisis occurring on the lands you steward, and take immediate action to protect the lives and dignity of all people on these lands by upholding the right to receive and provide humanitarian aid.

—Jim Schaffer