Salt of the Earth Labor College spotlights border militarization and death
A Border Patrol agent polices the U.S. side of a razor-wire-covered border wall along Mexico east of Nogales, Ariz. A project that maps the bodies of border crossers recovered from Arizona's inhospitable deserts, valleys, and mountains said that it documented 227 such deaths in 2020, the highest in a decade following the hottest, driest summer in state history. | Charlie Riedel / AP

TUCSON, Ariz.—For decades, the U.S.-Mexico border areas have experienced increased militarization, a surge in deportations, and an ever-more brutal border patrol. The Trump administration’s policies of separating families, building walls, and racist demonizing of migrants made the situation even worse—and then came the pandemic. Some hope the Biden administration will ease things somewhat, but change is slow in coming and the needed comprehensive immigration reform will be difficult to achieve in Congress—especially the Senate.

To raise awareness, Salt of the Earth Labor College in Tucson is planning a special Zoom presentation titled, “On Militarization and Death Along the Border,” on Saturday, March 20. It will include information about the impact of continued militarization on border communities, migrants, government agencies, NGOs, and those ordered to police the border.

Special guests will include Pedro Rios, left, of the American Friends Service Committee, and Jenn Budd, former Border Patrol agent and now immigrant rights activist.

Special guests, both active with the Southern Border Communities Coalition, are Pedro Rios and Jenn Budd.

Pedro Rios, director of the American Friends Service Committee’s U.S.-Mexico Border Program will speak about the history of border militarization and the consequences of increased border militarization, including the deaths of migrants in the borderlands.

Jenn Budd, formerly a Border Patrol agent and now an immigrant rights activist, will speak about the corruption, brutality, and culture of impunity of the Border Patrol. Budd is a whistleblower and can speak to strategies currently being undertaken to bring awareness about and to curb Border Patrol abuses.

As with all events at Salt of the Earth Labor College, there will be lots of time for discussion of the issues involved and ideas for strengthening the immigrant rights movements and for solidarity with resistance by immigrants and impacted communities.

Our border communities, including Tucson, are the first line of defense for refugees seeking asylum and for migrants arrested by the Border Patrol. The area is host to large immigrant prisons, special court proceedings, and swarms of federal, state, and local uniformed and armed officials—often reminiscent of occupied Palestine’s West Bank. This is especially felt in the smaller border towns.

Border communities are also aware of the continuing alarming number of deaths in the desert as migrants seek new, more desolate routes around Trump’s border walls. Activists here shudder in horror when the local press cites the latest body count, and again when considering the horror of knowing that so many bodies are never recovered.

While the raging pandemic has created havoc for educational institutions across the country and the world, Tucson’s Salt of the Earth Labor College has been able to continue its educational work. In the first three months of 2020, its workers’ school was enjoying its highest attendance figures since its founding in 1993, until COVID-19 forced it to terminate classes for the semester. Transitioning to Zoom classes last fall, participation has remained high, and the school is considering continuing classes into the summer months.

Salt of the Earth Labor College is not collecting fees, as usual, but is grateful for donations.

Special Virtual Presentation by Salt of the Earth Labor College:

“On Militarization and Death Along the Border”

  • Saturday, March 20th, 2:00pm Arizona Time
  • 2:00pm Pacific, 3:00pm Mountain, 4:00pm Central, 5:00pm Eastern

The Zoom link from the announcement on the Salt of the Earth Labor College Facebook page, or by email request to


Sarah Roberts
Sarah Roberts

Sarah Roberts is a retired RN and an immigrant rights activist. Some of the movements she has been a part of — and taken risks for — include Humane Borders, Tucson Samaritans, No More Deaths, the St. Michael’s Guatemala Project, and, currently and significantly, the Arizona Palestine Solidarity Alliance, Keep Tucson Together, and Pima County Justice for All. Sarah Roberts es una enfermera titulada jubilada y activista por los derechos de los inmigrantes.

Joe Bernick
Joe Bernick

Joe Bernick is the Director of Salt of the Earth Labor College, Tucson, Arizona.