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With Migrant Deaths Mounting, Border Residents Organize to Save Lives

August 09, 2022 (1 min read)

Melissa del Bosque, The Border Chronicle, Aug. 9, 2022

"Every week, Joel Smith, a former Marine, drives into the desert to leave water for migrants trekking through the Devil’s Highway and other deadly corridors in the Sonoran Desert. Smith is operations manager for Humane Borders, a nonprofit volunteer organization founded in Tucson, Arizona, more than two decades ago. The organization came together in response to migrant deaths in the desert, which had been increasing since 1994, when the Border Patrol adopted its “prevention through deterrence” strategy. The centerpiece of this strategy was to close off urban crossing points, pushing migrants into more remote and dangerous routes. The thinking, according to former Immigration and Naturalization Service commissioner Doris Meissner, who oversaw Border Patrol at the time, was that because the journey would now be so deadly, migrants would stop trying to cross. Migration would, she claimed, “go down to a trickle once people realized what [it’s] like.” But that never happened. Last year, 225 bodies were recovered in the Arizona desert—the highest number since 2010. Most people who die perish from dehydration and exposure. An untold number will never be found, says Smith. “To me, our border policy is a conscious and deliberate policy of death,” he says. ... In Arizona, as in the other border states, 2022 looks like it will be another devastating year for deaths. As of July 1st, 126 bodies were already recovered in the Arizona desert. Whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat in the White House, Smith says, the deaths continue. “This started with Clinton, and it continued during Bush, Obama, and Trump. It doesn’t matter who is in power,” he says. “If I was in Biden’s shoes, I’d sit down and write an executive order and have the Border Patrol putting out water to save lives. Instead, he’s finishing Trump’s wall. No matter who’s in charge or what party it is, the deaths continue, which is the biggest tragedy of all.” "