Volunteers Provide Needed Water on the Arizona Mexico Border
Volunteers from the organisation Humane Borders place water in remote desert locations where immigrants cross into the United States. 21/03/2011
Humane Borders volunteers make 70 trips per month May through September, and 30 trips per month October through April to provide water at "water stations" in the unforgiving Arizona deserts.
The group has negotiated extensive contracts with the federal government to be able to place their water stations on federal lands. For their part Humane Borders supplies the water, promises to not physically aid any crossers that they find and do a ground search around their water stations for garbage left by border crossers. In turn, the government has promised that it will not use the water stations as traps to capture border crossers, and give them a wide berth.
As you stand out in the southern Arizona and look off into the distance, it's easy to believe that there is no one for tens of miles, but Humane Borders volunteer Norm Baker quickly brings me back to earth. "There's a good chance they're out there, watching us as we fill the water," he says. He's making reference to so of the tens of thousands of Mexican and Central American migrants that cross illegally into the US a few miles south of here and proceed to make their way through a desert that is a brutal as it is beautiful.
Norm got involved with Humane Borders four years ago when the Rev. Liana Rowe spoke at his church about the project and the vital services they were providing to crossers. He recognizes the limitations of what they are doing, "this is only a stop gap measure. What we really need is a sane immigration policy, where people can cross safely and work legally." But for now, what Norm and his fellow volunteers at Humane Borders are doing is saving lives.
Water stations can be found on public land in Pima County, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Ironwood Forest National Monument. Private land in Cochise and Pima counties.
On this day I went out with Norm Baker and Eric Goodenberger. Despite having been involved for years, Norm is still amazed by some of the things he sees, "I find bicycles all the time. Sometimes I even find a stroller. Can you imagine setting off on the other side with a stroller and thinking you're going to make it?" The desert floor, even in it's good spots, is littered with rocks big and small, making walking after a few hours a difficult task and pushing a stroller near impossible.
Having filled two stations with water and driving down the road, I ask Norm why he continues to give up a day a week to make the long journey south to do the grunt work. "When I heard about people dying of thirst, all I could think is it's just not fair. We're not solving the problem, but at least we're doing something."