A note from Danielle: I just want to reiterate that I did not write this. Another volunteer who decided to publish anonymously did. I am glad to help get it in the hands of as many people as possible.
One of our volunteers recently wrote this powerful reflection on their experiences providing humanitarian aid in the Arizona desert. The stories people share with us in Nogales are often times a tangled web of the reasons they find themselves at the border, where they hope to go, and the things that stand in the way. The desert is always present, another harrowing step on the journey already encountered or looming in the back of the mind.
Designed to Kill: Border Policy and How to Change It
For a number of years now I’ve worked in the desert on the Mexican-American border with a group that provides humanitarian aid to migrants who are attempting to enter the United States—a journey that claims hundreds of lives every year. We’ve spent years mapping the trails that cross this desert. We walk the trails, find places to leave food and water along them, look for people in distress, and provide medical care when we run into someone who needs it. If the situation is bad enough, we can get an ambulance or helicopter to bring people to the hospital. We strive to act in accordance with the migrants’ wishes at all times, and we never call the Border Patrol on people who don’t want to turn themselves in.
During this time I’ve been a part of many extraordinary situations and I’ve heard about many more. Some of the things I’ve seen have been truly heartwarming, and some of them have been deeply sad and wrong. I’ve seen people who were too weak to stand, too sick to hold down water, hurt too badly to continue, too scared to sleep, too sad for words, hopelessly lost, desperately hungry, literally dying of thirst, never going to be able to see their children again, vomiting blood, penniless in torn shoes two thousand miles from home, suffering from heat stroke, kidney damage, terrible blisters, wounds, hypothermia, post-traumatic stress, and just about every other tribulation you could possibly think of. I’ve been to places where people were robbed and raped and murdered; my friends have found bodies. In addition to bearing witness to others’ suffering, I myself have fallen off of cliffs, torn my face open on barbed wire, run out of water, had guns pointed at me, been charged by bulls and circled by vultures, jumped over rattlesnakes, pulled pieces of cactus out of many different parts of my body with pliers, had to tear off my pants because they were full of fire ants, gotten gray hairs, and in general poured no small amount of my own sweat, blood, and tears into the thirsty desert.
There is nowhere on earth like the place where we work. Continue reading…