No More Deaths on the border

Note: On Saturday, April 26, Maryada and Walt Stanton, humanitarian activists from No More Deaths border action and Casa Maria Catholic Worker in Tucson, Arizona, will share their experiences of offering direct hospitality to people struggling with oppressive immigration issues. It is presented as part of the Midwest Catholic Worker Immigration Retreat. (For more information go here.)

As a primer, we have posted No More Deaths mission and history. To view NMD’s website, go here: http://www.nomoredeaths.org.

No More Deaths is an organization whose mission is to end death and suffering on the U.S./Mexico border through civil initiative: the conviction that people of conscience must work openly and in community to uphold fundamental human rights. Our work embraces the Faith-Based Principles for Immigration Reform and focuses on the following themes:

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

Historical Summary

A morally intolerable situation inspired a remarkable humanitarian movement in Southern Arizona in the spring of 2004. Driven by economic inequality, thwarted by ill-conceived US border policy, and ignorant of the harsh conditions of the Sonoran Desert, more than 2000 men, women, and children have died trying to cross the Mexican border into the United States since 1998. Most of the deaths occurred in the brutal heat of the summer months. With another summer of inevitable deaths looming, diverse faith-based and social activist groups—along with concerned individuals—felt compelled to act to stem the death tide and attempt to save at least some lives. The result was the converging of hundreds of volunteers—local, regional and national—who came together to work for one common goal: No Más Muertes: No More Deaths.

In October 2003, frustrated that despite the efforts of some well-established and well-organized humanitarian groups, lives were still being lost regularly in the Sonoran Desert, two groups of religious leaders in Tucson began meeting to search for a solution. One group, convened by Bishop Gerald Kicanas of the Roman Catholic Diocese and representatives of the Jewish community, sponsored several catalytic trips to Altar in Sonora, Mexico—a staging area for migrants and ground zero of the border crisis. In March 2004, the Multi-Faith Border Conference was held. At that March conference, the group, No More Deaths, presented its principles for immigration reform and the opportunity for involvement in the campaign for summer, 2004. On April 19, 2004, Arizona Interfaith Network pastors and leaders joined Bishop Kicanas and many multi-faith representatives on the lawn of the Arizona Capitol Building to urge the government to enact these principles for immigration reform.

Faith-Based Principles for Immigration Reform

Action

Guided by the first principle—the failed militarized border enforcement strategy—a coalition of groups established practical means to aid migrants driven away from urban crossing centers into the life-endangering remote areas of the desert. The coalition determined that an around-the-clock, non-violent, humanitarian physical presence in the desert would be the single most effective approach.

The goals of No More Deaths 2004 were to provide water, food, and medical assistance to migrants walking through the Arizona desert; to monitor US operations on the border and work to change US policy to resolve the “war zone” crisis on the border; and to bring the plight of migrants to public attention. These goals were implemented by recruiting aid programs as well as supporting already-existing ones, by interfaith, humanitarian, peaceful, solidarity-building events, and by establishing camps for assistance, outreach and border monitoring. Under the No More Deaths umbrella, participating groups—staffed by volunteers–abided by clear medical and legal protocols and worked in concert to save human lives.

Central to No More Deaths were camps called Arks of the Covenant. Attention was brought to the plight of migrants by local and national and international media coverage, religious and memorial services on the Ark sites, and a 75-mile trek from Sasabe, Sonora, Mexico, to the US Border Patrol headquarters in Tucson.

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