One Last Thing

Mary Cuevas

Mary Cuevas

Mary Cuevas
Tucson, Arizona, USA
November 08
Freelance writer, educator, blogger. Have dabbled in documentary filmmaking. Dropped out of college to experience life. Lived in most major cities in USA and also London, England and Wellington, New Zealand. Waited tables while traveling and living for these ten years. Returned to college, studied history at UCLA, earned a BA. Taught overseas in Bogota, Colombia and Gumi, S. Korea.


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MARCH 23, 2009 3:23PM

Sophie's Choice at Arizona Border: A Humanitarian Crisis

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Sophie's Choice at Arizona Border: A Humanitarian Crisis

Crossing the border can be deadly. Body of migrant found outside Tucson

I drove down to Nogales on Wednesday and crossed over to the Mexican side. No More Deaths has an aid station set up there where they ask migrants being sent back to Mexico if they need medical assistance and if they were abused by Border Patrol.

No More Deaths aid station in Nogales

While I was standing there taking photos, an older woman with two younger girls walked up. The older woman told us with terror in her eyes that she was held for 30 days for a false passport and that her money was taken from her. The tears were welling up in her eyes. The volunteer nurse who was standing next to me got the number on her documents and immediately made a call to the Mexican Consulate. The nurse was unable to make contact, but left a message.

No More Deaths aid station and Red Cross combine efforts to assist migrants

Later while we were at the food bank they have set up about a block away, this nurse got the call from the Mexican Consulate to say they were going to get every cent that woman had back. The point of my story is that the exploitation of the migrants who are in desperate situations is appalling.

Food Bank in Nogales

At the food bank, the migrants are provided with donated food, clothes, shoes, and socks.   However, many leave with nothing because the donated items quickly run out.  The volunteer nurse who came down that day provides medical attention.

No More Deaths volunteers hand out donated clothes at Food Bank

I was so overwhelmed with what I saw that the tears were welling up behind my sunglasses. One young girl came up for medical assistance. I sat next to her while she was being treated for a knee injury and talked to her in my broken Spanish.

Maria Guadalupe gets medical treatment by No More Deaths volunteer nurse

Twenty-two year old Maria Guadalupe was from Michoacan. Maria got picked up in a car headed for Phoenix after having walked for four days through the desert. She was about an hour away from her journey's end where her husband was waiting. To join her husband in Phoenix, Maria had to make a Sophie's Choice-like decision. So desperately poor and wanting a better life for her child, she was forced to leave her 7 month old baby with family to make minimum wage thousands of miles away from her home.

Maria Gudalupe

I could not sleep that night and I still see Maria Guadalupe's face.

Post looking for family member who more than likely perished in the desert trying to cross

The number of people who have passed through the No More Deaths aid station in Nogales is more than 300,000 since 2006. The NMD volunteers have documented 345 cases of abuse at the hands of the Border Patrol. 183 people have died in the desert so far this year trying to cross. The numbers are likely higher since many migrants are never found. The body decomposes quickly in the desert sun.  Often times when a body is found, the migrant has taken off his/her clothes and foldes them neatly.  The clothes become like burning embers against the skin from the desert sun so they strip.  Some are found buried in the dirt or sand in an attempt to get out of the sun.
Border Patrol escorting migrants to detention center, please note the lack of water provided for them by Border Patrol, no one is carrying a water bottle

As mentioned in a previous post, until Mexico and the United States address the economic root of the problem, there will continue to be a massive migration. The unsightly wall that has been put up only delays a migrant's crossing by about 5 minutes. The wall must come down not only because it is useless, but the message it sends is not the message our government should support. Moreover, it is wreaking havoc on the desert animal migration and the ecosystem.

The Wall, near Sasabe, AZ

I met two men at the aid station. One from Honduras and one from Guatemala. They told me that they were going to attempt to cross again the next day. The man from Guatemala had lived in Phoenix for fourteen years. He was stopped on a traffic violation and did not have a chance to say good bye to his family comprised of a wife and four children.

Honduran man on left, Guatemalan man on right

There are three organizations helping migrants in Tucson. No More Deaths is the most hands on organization. Since this work is controversial, No More Deaths has difficulty finding funding. However, the work they do has saved countless lives. They set up camps in the desert and go out on daily patrols looking for migrants in distress. They drive the back roads and also get out and hike.

No More Deaths truck parked at the camp site waiting for the morning patrol

They recently set up a tent like what we saw on the show M.A.S.H. The tent is equipped with cots and medical supplies to treat migrants. Most suffer from heat related illness and blisters on the feet from wearing improper shoes.

No More Deaths Medical Tent at camp site

The Samaritans are similar in their efforts, but they do not have camps set up out in the desert. They patrol the back roads and also hike.

A Samaritan volunteer ready for a desert patrol on the migrant trail

Humane Borders is the least controversial and thus gets the most funding. Pima County government gives them a $25,000 grant every year. They have 99 water stations set up across the desert outside Tucson and as far as Organ Pipe.

Humane Borders truck

If this post and photos have moved youin any way to action, please write a check and make it out to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson (memo line: No More Deaths-Mary Cuevas) and mail it to the address below. Financial donations are tax-deductible and April 15th is just around the corner.

Please mention that you heard about NMD through my blog. Thanks in advance. Your donation will surely save countless lives this summer where temperatures soar above 100 degrees for days on end.

No More Deaths
Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson
PO Box 40782
Tucson, AZ 85717

Migrants at Food Bank in Nogales

For more information please visit the website:
A No More Deaths volunteer nurse helps remove a cactus spine from a migrant's foot at the Nogales Food Bank
Posted by Mary Cuevas at 9:26 AM 0 comments Links to this post

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You have a beautiful heart, Mary. I will forward this on to my friends.
This is very sad. I don't know what should be done about anything.
thanks nat!!!:) the work is important. people die out there. the sun is so intense, that migrants have been found naked with their clothes neatly folded next to them. some even bury themselves in the dirt to escapet the sun. it is heartbreaking.:)

thanks for commenting.:)
hi delia,
yes it is a horrible situation. it needs to be addressed at the root level.
thanks for commenting.:)
once again, thanks for being out there on the line for this very important work
We need to majorly re-think our immigration policy with Mexico, begining witha really simple step; tear down that retarded wall. Rated for somebody needs to be telling this story. Thank you Mary.
This is a heartbreaking story Mary, but at least it shows what difference can be made by people who care enough to do something. They're doing good work, and so are you for posting this.
thanks roy,
yes it really should not be ignored. so many die out there horrible horrible painful deaths.
hi nat,
yes we do need to rethink our immigration policy. moreover, mexico needs to look at their own economic disparity between rich and poor.
thanks for commenting.:)
hi trey,
thanks for commenting.:) yes we can all make a differnece in this world. and these volunteers for no more desths certainly are.:)
You're doing great work, Mary. Thank you. The crisis at the border is wholly underplayed in the media I read and watch. But make sure that you format your post so that the prose isn't sneaking between the photographs. Perhaps next time you might include only 2-3 photos within the text portion of the post, and stack the rest atop one another at the end. I only suggest this to maximize the accessibility of the prose you write, which is ultimately the anchor of your story & argument, no?

Either way, keep up the great work you're doing, Mary. It's epic, heroic. I'm humbled.
hi pablo,
thanks, i copy my posts from my personal blog and sometimes the photos overlap on OS. will fix it next.

yes this is a humanitarian crisis. the migrants are being abused and not given medical attention while in detention. many cross in nogales and collapse and die. it is shameful that our country allows this sort of human rights abuses.

i am trying to get doc filmmakers i know to make a film. just sent an email to edward james olmos. long story, but he put my doc film on human rights abuses on colombia in his fest at the egyptian theater in hollywood. and also agreed to be my executive director.

anyway, just trying to spread the word in hopes that it will result in policy change.

thanks for commenting.:)
Mary this should have been an editor's pick and on the cover. wow!