Border ministry helps immigrants survive desert crossing
|A UMNS photo by Cathy Howard
A volunteer stands near one of the 70 water stations maintained by Humane Borders.
The blue flag tells travelers that water is available.
May 20, 2005
By United Methodist News Service
year, countless men, women and children die a cruel death in the
Sonoran Desert in an effort to cross from Mexico into the United States,
in search of a better life.
United Methodists have joined an effort to help the immigrants survive
their desert trek. Early in May, Paul Fuschini and the Rev. Moisés
Yañez, a retired minister, traveled to the Sonoran Desert as part of
Humane Borders, a faith-based group bringing humanitarian assistance to
Latin American immigrants. The desert covers parts of Arizona,
California and Northwestern Mexico.
and Fuschini, under the direction of Sister Elizabeth Ohmann of the
Roman Catholic Church's Franciscan Order and others, went to the desert
May 2 to service three of the 70 water stations established by Humane
70 water stations consist of two 50-gallon (tanks), filled with potable
water, next to a 30-foot-mast with a blue flag, telling the travelers
that water is available," said Fuschini, vice president of Humane
Borders. "These water tanks have to be cleaned, refilled and tested for
purity. An army of volunteers are needed in order to do a good job at
these water stations."
year, the organization put out 25,000 gallons of water, according to
Fuschini. "People often say, 'You're encouraging people to come here,'
and I can say without hesitation that they don't come here to drink the
Borders is working to establish water stations along the routes where
the immigrants walk. It is also working with government agencies to
create fair legislation for the immigrants.
"Death has a
stronghold along the southern border of the U.S.," Yañez said. "Here is
where every summer men, women and children find a terrible end to their
of economic opportunities in Mexico and other countries south of the
U.S. border drive nearly a million people to try to cross into the
United States every year, Yañez said. "Around 600,000 of those
immigrants are apprehended by the Border Patrol."
geographic area of Arizona and Mexico that encompasses Douglas/Agua
Prieta-Nogales/Nogales-El Sasabe-Sonoyta is the most inhospitable
environment for immigrants, he said. Even traveling 200 miles into the
Altar Desert—part of the Sonoran Desert—with a four-wheel-drive vehicle
and plenty of water and food is very risky.
on foot is suicidal," he said. "That is why hundreds of people have
died, some because of accidents, robberies, sickness, and lack of food
and water—even with the guide of a 'coyote' a person who controls their
life and money.
|A UMNS photo by Cathy Howard
"Death has a stronghold along the southern border of the U.S.," says the Rev. Mois�s Ya�ez (far rt.).
"They have sold
their houses and property, and they have taken shark loans in order to
have the money for this Odyssean trip, and in many cases they travel
with their wives and children."
When survivors arrive in cities
like Phoenix, Chicago or Los Angeles, they often must take the jobs that
no one else wants—jobs with low pay and dangerous conditions, he said.
money these immigrants send to their countries represents millions or
billions of dollars for the economy of Mexico and other countries,"
Yañez explained. "Without this money, the economy of those countries
will collapse." The U.S. economy benefits from the situation because the
immigrants represent a large pool of cheap labor, he said.
question is why, if the immigrants benefit the economies of the United
States and their countries, they have to put their lives in jeopardy,
why they have to die the most horrendous death in the Sonora Desert," he
said. The answer, he said, is on hold, as Mexico's President Vicente
Fox Quesada, U.S. President George W. Bush, Congress and other entities
debate about immigration and border policies.
"And in the meantime, men die, women die, and children die," Yañez said.
The suffering inspired the creation of Humane Borders, he said.
Said Fuschini: "We got together as a group and said … death in the desert is not acceptable."
News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5458 or email@example.com.