Humanitarian aid group struggles to curb record number of Arizona border deaths

This is an opinion. It is not necessarily supported or shared by the entirety of ICMHD.

Omar Torres, AFP/Getty Images

The most commonly utilised point of entry for migrants crossing the border from Mexico to the US over the past number of years is also one of the most deadly. This entry point is a 420 km (261 mi) stretch of land in Southern Arizona, which is part of the Sonora Desert, and it is where about 200 would-be clandestine migrants die each year. According to reports, there have been 214 deaths since 1 October, 2009. One of ICMHD’s staffers ran across this news report the other day, which raises some interesting questions, concerns and possible discussion.

Connect to this video report at link below:

EXCLUSIVE: Humanitarian aid group struggles to curb record number of Arizona border deaths.

According to their website, No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes is an organisation that is working to uphold fundamental human rights by stopping these deaths from happening. Their mission works under the following themes:

• Direct aid that extends the right to provide humanitarian assistance
• Witnessing and responding
• Consciousness raising
• Global movement building
• Encouraging humane immigration policy.

This organisation, lead by their beliefs, have organised camps and other drop off points that provide aid in the form of water, food, and medical assistance to migrants crossing the US-Mexico border via the Arizona desert.

There can be no doubt in peoples’ mind that the service that No More Deaths provides is life-saving and that it delivers a strong humanitarian message about ameliorating the human cost of clandestine migration. But this also lends itself to a discussion of America’s migration policy and whether or not it is doing the job it is meant to do, particularly when speaking about the ‘business’ of migration at the US-Mexico border.

With the current situation, neither the migrant nor the American public is winning. Clandestine migrants in the US are often only able to do the jobs that people who are legally in the US don’t want to do (at least not at the low pay they receive): construction work, hard labor, low level agricultural jobs, dishwashers, caring after children or the elderly, etc. They are also often treated badly, exploited and made to be political scapegoats because they don’t have any legal rights. The general American public is not gaining from the situation either, as people in the country illegally are not paying taxes or contributing to the social services they also use. They are not giving back to the country that is hosting them, because they don’t have the right to be there. There is something to be said, however, about Mexico’s position in all of this. Due to the monetary remittances sent from these migrants to their families at home in Mexico, the country is bringing in an extra 15-20 billion USD per year. At the same time, however, there is a drain on Mexico’s workforce due to these migrants’ movements. The majority of the people who migrate are healthy, young, and strong individuals, people who could be doing much to improve the economic and social situation in their home country.

Instead of focusing on keeping people on certain sides of a country boundary, the US should reform its immigration laws, and enforce protection for all workers within its borders. Migrants who are in the US, supporting the foundation of its workforce from the shadows, should be provided the rights that they deserve, while simultaneously being asked to contribute to the country in which they are living. Work should be done in Mexico as well, however, to strengthen and develop the social and economic situation in order to provide more opportunities for people to take care of themselves and their families within their own borders.

Everyone should have the right to move and to migrate, but everyone should also have the means to take care of themselves and their loved ones within their own support system of family and friends.

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