Preventing Migrant Deaths on Arizona’s US-Mexico Border

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

Since 2001, more than 3,000 human remains have been found along the US-Mexico border in Arizona, an average of more than 150 per year in that state alone. Amy Goodman reported that, in 2019, humanitarian aid organizations including No More Deaths continued to provide migrants with basic resources, including water and food, as part of their mission to prevent migrant deaths. Humanitarian activists continue to challenge laws that make providing resources to migrants illegal. Goodman interviewed Scott Warren, a volunteer with No More Deaths, who faced up to ten years in prison for three felony counts due to his humanitarian work in the Sonoran Desert, and Alvaro Enciso, an artist based in Tucson who has built and installed more than 900 crosses to mark where migrants have died.

Warren’s work included dropping off gallons of water and canned food for migrants. Although eight members of a 12-person jury found Warren not guilty of a felony conspiracy charge, resulting in a mistrial on the conspiracy charge, at the time of the Democracy Now! interview he was awaiting trial on two charges of harboring migrants as well as several misdemeanor charges.

Enciso works alongside the Pima County medical examiner to record and link human remains to missing migrants through DNA. He uses this information to locate and pay tribute to those who died under poor conditions.

Border Patrol officials have touted the agency’s rescue beacons as official efforts to prevent migrant deaths. However, as Paige Corich-Kleim, a volunteer with No More Deaths, told Democracy Now!, the Border Patrol does not have any data to show how effective the beacons are. In the Yuma sector, Corich-Kleim said, several thousand rescue beacon activations led to just four rescues. In response, No More Deaths volunteers leave water jugs and food at Border Patrol rescue beacons, which may help migrants avoid detention.

“Humanitarian aid is never a crime,” Geena Jackson with No More Deaths told Democracy Now!. “Regardless of government agencies trying to prosecute humanitarian aid workers, we maintain that humanitarian aid is never a crime,” Jackson reiterated.

Scott Warren’s case was reported by corporate media outlets such as the New York Times and the Washington Post in June 2019, but those media sources fail to capture the resistance and solidarity of organizations that aim to save migrants’ lives along the US-Mexico border in Arizona.

In November 2019, a jury found Warren not guilty of the government’s felony charges. Outside the US District Court, Warren told a crowd of supporters, “The government has failed in its attempt to criminalize basic human kindness.” The verdict was widely covered by establishment news outlets, including the Washington Post and CBS News. Among independent news sources, the Intercept deserves credit for its especially detailed report, chronicling Warren’s experience and insights during the two years that he faced federal charges.

Source:  Amy Goodman, “Death and Resistance on the U.S.-Mexico Border: A Democracy Now! Special,” Democracy Now! September 2, 2019,

Student Researcher: Astri Juarez (City College of San Francisco)

Faculty Evaluator: Jennifer Levinson (City College of San Francisco)