Since 2006, No More Deaths has provided humanitarian aid to individuals deported from the U.S. to cities along the Arizona-Sonora border. No More Deaths does not own or run a migrant aid station in Mexico, but instead works in partnership with multiple humanitarian, faith-based and governmental organizations in Northern Sonora that run such facilities, complementing local resources with our own. No More Deaths currently has partnerships in two border communities that receive significant numbers of deportees: Nogales and Agua Prieta, Sonora.
Risks are extremely high for people arriving deported in Sonora, particularly for those who have no money, identification or connections. For instance, simply borrowing a telephone on the street can result in an attempt to extort family members by using the number called to claim to have kidnapped their loved one. For this reason, No More Deaths’ work in Nogales and Agua Prieta is designed to provide a safe alternative to options that, when turned to out of necessity by people in crisis, may lead to exploitation and other dangers. No More Deaths volunteers provide direct services to meet immediate material needs while also supporting deportees in reconnecting with the resources and networks from which they have been separated through apprehension, deportation, or detention.
Direct Aid in Nogales
|A volunteer provides medical aid in Nogales, Sonora.|
In Nogales, Sonora, No More Deaths bases its work out of spaces where people who have been deported gather each day. Volunteers work in conjunction with a wide range of organizations, including the Kino Border Initiative, Dirección General de Atención a Migrantes Internacionales, Transportes Fronterizos, Grupos Beta, and the San Juan Bosco Shelter. Volunteers provide support to recent deportees in the form of phone communication with family, clothing, first aid, recovery of property confiscated by law enforcement, help receiving money via Western Union, documentation of human rights abuses by law enforcement such as Border Patrol or local police, and assistance in finding missing family members after being separated by Border Patrol during detention or deportation.
As one of the busiest ports of entry on the border, Nogales received nearly 55,000 deportees in 2011, including 8,400 during the month of March. No More Deaths volunteers currently support up to 120 people a day in making phone calls and many dozens more each month in recovering belongings from Border Patrol and reconnecting with family members separated during deportation.
Direct Aid in Agua Prieta
|The Migrant Resource Center in Agua Prieta, Sonora.|
In Agua Prieta, No More Deaths volunteers work at the Migrant Resource Center, a binational project of the Presbyterian border ministry Frontera de Cristo, and the Catholic parish Sagrada Familia. Support provided by volunteers to deportees includes orientation to the city of Agua Prieta and its services, documentation and reporting of abuse, mistreatment and neglect experienced while in the custody of immigration authorities and humanitarian aid in the form of nourishment, clothing, hygiene products and phone communication. While Agua Prieta received only about 800 deportees in 2011, the pace has quicken drastically with U.S. authorities deporting over 6,000 people through Agua Prieta during the first five months of 2012. Consequently, the Migrant Resource Center now serves an average of 30-50 people a day, and ranging up to 200 on very busy days.
Deportation and Dispossession
In 2011, U.S. authorities returned or removed (deported) 863,647 people from the country. By separating hundreds of thousands of people from their families, homes and lives, the policy of mass deportation closely mirrors the relationship between the U.S. and the rest of the Americas, a process of dispossession in its broadest sense. Wealth and resources continue to flow from south to north, enriching the economic elite in the U.S. while dispossessing millions, many of whom have chosen to migrate to the U.S. in pursuit of basic standards of living, safety and wellbeing and often to join family members and loved ones. Unauthorized migrants risk their lives in defiance of a militarized border and an enormous internal enforcement apparatus designed to ensure their dispossession.
The coercion and violence involved in deportation make it
|A volunteer collects belongings seized and never returned by Border Patrol.|
inherently damaging to those affected. However, U.S. immigration authorities’ routine and flagrant disregard for the health and safety of detainees and deportees exponentially compounds the vulnerability of people affected by deportation. Deportees routinely experience being injured during apprehension; denied medical care, food or water while in detention; separated from family members, support networks and material possessions by detention or deportation; and being deported in unfamiliar and dangerous locations, often after nightfall. Consequently, the work of humanitarian aid organizations is to address the effects not just of deportation but also of cruel and reckless apprehension methods, abusive and sometimes torturous treatment in custody, prolonged and unnecessary detention and a variety of dangerous repatriation practices.
Support and Solidarity
As U.S. authorities continue to deport people from the interior at an escalating rate, humanitarian aid practices which directly support people affected by deportation and simultaneously contest the policies and institutions responsible for systematic dispossession are a vital part of the movement for migrant justice. No More Deaths’ work in border communities helps to reduce the harm to those directly targeted by border militarization and mass deportation by providing temporary support at a critical moment: immediately post-deportation. At the same time, these forms of humanitarian aid represent an act of solidarity with those most directly resisting the economic and political forces of dispossession which are responsible for displacing many millions of people across the Americas.