News Archives

Border ministry helps immigrants survive desert crossing

 


Border ministry helps immigrants survive desert crossing

May 20, 2005

By United Methodist News Service

Each 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.

Two 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.

Yañez 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 Borders.

"The 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."

Last 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 water."

Humane 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 lives."

Lack 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."

The 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.

"Traveling 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.

"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.

"The 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.

"The 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 newsdesk@umcom.org.

Ask Now

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.

First Name:*
Last Name:*
Email:*
ZIP/Postal Code:*
Question:*

*InfoServ ( about ) is a service of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add this address to your list of approved senders.

Would you like to ask any questions about this story?ASK US NOW


Contact Us

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.

Phone
(optional)

*InfoServ ( about ) is a ministry of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add InfoServ@umcom.org to your list of approved senders.