Tucson Citizen
Tuesday, July 27, 2004

No More Deaths vows to keep helping crossers

Not only is it legal to provide help to illegal immigrants, Pastor John Fife says, but it is also right, good and necessary.


A faith-based campaign aimed at saving illegal immigrants' lives is working and will continue until border policies change, the volunteers say.
The No More Deaths campaign's 239 volunteers have encountered 542 people in the desert whom they have fed, given water to and in some cases brought to Tucson for medical attention.

From the Covenants of the Ark camp in Arivaca, one of the group's two 24-hour camps in southern Arizona, three people were taken to St. Mary's Hospital in Tucson and 25 to Southside Presbyterian Church, 317 W. 23rd St., said No More Deaths volunteer camp coordinator Daniel Strauss, 22. The group has volunteer doctors, emergency medical technicians and other medical personnel at the church.

One of the 28 people brought to Tucson was a man who knocked on an Arivaca resident's door after roaming the desert for two days without food or water, Strauss said.

"He had so much fear in his eyes, and he didn't know what to make of us," Strauss said. "We were able, luckily, to help him."

Pastor John Fife of Southside Presbyterian said water left in the desert by Humane Borders is being consumed by migrants as quickly as it was during each of the past four years.

"It (the border) is as open as it ever was," said Fife, 64. "Accurate figures are to be found in the medical examiners' offices in Arizona."

According to medical examiners' records in Pima, Santa Cruz, Pinal and Cochise counties, the bodies of 142 illegal immigrants have been recovered since Oct. 1. At least 13 have been found in Yuma County.

As of July 15, the Border Patrol listed 81 suspected illegal border crossers found dead in the Tucson sector since Oct. 1. By the same date last year, 82 had been found in the sector. Medical examiners' figures for last year were not available yesterday.

No one has been taken to Tucson from the group's second camp in Cochise County, but No More Deaths volunteer Elizabeth Garcia said they're still saving lives.

After people are treated for their injuries or dehydration at Southside Presbyterian, they are free to leave, Strauss said.

Derechos Humanos attorney Margot Cowan said the people she came across in the desert include a young man with an arm broken in three places and a woman who was gang-raped by border bandits while she crossed.

"What we see in the desert is shameful, absolutely shameful," Cowan said.

Helping the immigrants is legal and the right thing to do, Fife has said.

"This is not against the law," he told the Tucson Citizen when No More Deaths began. "It is never illegal to provide food and water and medical aid to migrants who are in distress. It's not only legal to help provide aid to migrants, it's right, it's good, and it's necessary."

Two things can be done to solve the border problem, said Rick Ufford-Chase, a No More Deaths volunteer and moderator of the Presbyterian Church USA.

He said job opportunities have to be created in the Mexican and Central American villages people are fleeing and a safe and legal immigration option has to exist for those who are needed to fill jobs on this side of the border.