76-mile desert walk protests border rules

Over 200 people protested U.S. immigration policies at the Tucson Sector Headquarters of the Border Patrol on June 6 at the end of the 76-mile Migrant Trail Walk.

According to Kat Rodríguez, coordinating organizer for the Derechos Humanos Coalition, 26 activists walked the whole length of the march, which started at the U.S.-Mexico border on May 31. Another seven walked part of the length through the Sonoran Desert, where a few hundred people perish each year trying to enter the United States.

Rodríguez told the World the activists marched “to bear witness to what our politicians are forcing our immigrant brothers and sisters to go through.” She said that while she came to appreciate the hardships faced by immigrants crossing through the desert into the U.S., the immigrants have it worse. “We had water every mile and a half, and we had food, still we suffered,” she said, noting that immigrants come in less prepared. “Two of the walkers had got very sick and had to leave,” she said.

Rodríguez pointed out that every day the weather reports put the temperature at over 100 degrees. “People told us that the temperature went up to 108 degrees one day while we were walking,” she said. The activists walked from 6 a.m. to 12 noon to escape the hottest part of the day. The 120,000 square miles Sonoran Desert, which covers parts of Arizona, California and Mexico, is the hottest desert in North America.

She noted that since October of last year to mid-April over 80 immigrants have been found dead in the desert. Noting that four bodies were just found, she said, “I think the number is over 100 now.” Of the 81 who died from in the October to April period, more than half are unidentified. Most died from dehydration or other heat-related causes. Activists note that many immigrants try to cross the desert with only one or two gallons of water. When it gets very hot, that amount is enough for only one day.

Rodríguez told this reporter the marchers found many items left by migrants in the desert. These included plastic water containers, clothing for both adults and children, and candles. She said the walkers gathered these items and then strung them up in front of the Border Patrol headquarters June 6 during the protest before they headed off to a rally in Kennedy Park.

According to the Derechos Humanos Coalition, “U.S. border policies have resulted in the deaths of more than 3,000 migrants on the U.S.-México border.” The coalition calls for changes in U.S. immigration policies and supports the “Comprehensive Legalization Reform” bill introduced in Congress by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), together with Representatives Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) and Bob Menéndez (D-N.J.).

Locally, Rodríguez said, freshman Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva “supports us more than anyone else.” She noted that while Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe “talks about the problems [on the border], but only offers a guest-worker program, which is no solution.”

The author can be reached at j.a.cruz@comcast.net.click here for Spanish text