Friday, March 1, 2013

Border Immersion Part 3

A continuation of previous posts...

Day 3

Most of the day was spent in the desert. After a brief visit to CRREDA (Centro de
Rehabilitacion y Recuperacion Para Engermos de Drogaddicion y Alcoholismo), we headed out into the desert with Agua Para la Vida (Water for Life). Agua Para La Vida is an organization that leaves water in the desert on known migrant trails in an effort to reduce the number of migrant deaths due to dehydration. In 2012 over 10,000 gallons of water were left in the desert, largely on the Mexican side due to threats of vandalism. Not only do migrants have to worry about all the dangers of the desert – extreme weather, Border Patrol agents, wildlife, drug cartels – they also have to contend with American vigilantes who want to decrease the number of migrants crossing the desert. There are stories of vigilante groups keeping watch over the border with guns, shooting any migrants they see (google the Minutemen, it’s shocking what news stories appear). There are also reports by migrants of vandalized water jugs and poisoned water. Some of the migrants we spoke to at the migrant resource center and CAME spoke about avoiding water jugs as a precaution. In recent years Agua Para La Vida has placed the majority of their water on the Mexican side of the wall, where it’s less likely to be tampered with.

We drove west along the highway from Agua Prieta before turning off into private land.  Agua Para La Vida has an arrangement with some of the ranchers in the area, so we drove through a ranch, past surprised looking cows, down pitted dirt roads, through empty stream beds, bouncing over rocks and plants for well over 30 minutes. Eventually we arrived at our destination: two 55 gallon water jugs within sight of the U.S.-Mexico border. After watching the guys fill the water jugs, we sat down for a quick picnic lunch before walking towards the wall.
Sarah and Joca examining the water jugs
It’s incredibly difficult to walk through the desert. Spiky plants that catch at your pants and stab your feet through your shoes. The unpredictable weather: one minute it’s warm enough to take off a couple of layers, the next an icy wind blows through. Pockets of snow left over from the night before. Knowing that the Border Patrol is possibly (likely) watching you arrive on their cameras. Continually running across items left behind by previous migrants. Then finally arriving at the fence. The sheer absurdity of a 20 foot wall in the middle of the desert.

some of the desert landscape

one section of the wall
 A Border Patrol agent drove by to see what we were doing at the wall, and we ended up having a fruitful conversation with him. He told us about some of the new techniques drug runners are using to get their goods across the border (they were probably the source of the small plane that kept flying above us), about how sections of the fence are opened during the rainy season (so the fence doesn’t get slammed with debris) and farmers have responded by putting up barbed wire to keep their cows in when this happens, about how excited new agents are when a group like ours walks to the wall, thinking that the Border Patrol is going to catch a big group of migrants, that the wall isn’t working like it’s supposed to.

the prickly plants that make walking in the desert difficult*

another section of the wall - you can see the floodgates with new barbed wire
 The one downside of this time in the desert at the wall is that we missed the weekly prayer vigil that Healing Our Borders hosts at the Douglas port of entry. I had been looking forward to this event the most, so it was kind of sad to miss it. But the rest of the day was pretty remarkable.
our group walking on train tracks to get to the wall*

part of a ladder left behind by migrants*
*Pictures taken by our fearless leader Andrea

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