Sunday we joined about 20,000 people in one of the most creative and meaningful public rituals around. Tucson’s All Soul’s Procession is a mix of spirituality, artistic expression, and communal liturgy. It’s about remembering those who have died, contemplating our own shared journey toward death, and reveling in the fact that we are alive now.
The Restoration Project community built and carried a butterfly with the names of 206 people who died in the desert this year—migrants crossing through the Tucson sector of the Arizona/ Mexico border from Oct. 1, 2008 — Sept. 30, 2009.
Here is more information about those who died this past year. From a press release from the Tucson organization: Coalición de Derechos Humanos.
This figure is higher than last year’s total of 183 remains recovered, but the true total number of deaths on the border is impossible to calculate, particularly as the number of remains recovered in neighboring states is not available.
“In looking at the data from this year, an alarming piece that jumps out immediately is the staggering increase in the number of remains of unknown gender. Two years ago, that number was 5, then 19 last year, and this year we are at 31, an incredible 15% of the total recovered.” says Kat Rodriguez, Coordinator of Coalición de Derechos Humanos.
Unknown gender indicates that not enough of the remains were recovered to determine gender, and without DNA, it is impossible to know even this basic information about the individual, making identification and return to their families even more difficult. The dramatic increase in these unknown gender cases are a troubling indicator or what might be to come, as people are pushed out into more and more isolated areas, making rescue and detection less likely, and the likelihood of death more certain.
There is information to suggest that the migration flow patterns are shifting due to the Funnel Effect, which has been documented by the Binational Migration Institute*. The high number of skeletal remains recovered this year, 36 (17.5% of total) support this likely shift in migration flow, and it is possible that the long periods of time before being recovered indicates that people are crossing in more isolated and desolate areas, with less chance of rescue or discovery. It is unknown how many remains are currently near the border but have not yet been discovered, and it is possible that some of these remains will never be recovered.
“Every year we total up the human cost of militarization and wonder when our government will acknowledge that these deaths are the direct effects of border militarization and immigration policies.” continued Rodriguez. “As we watch politicians and many of the large immigrant rights groups negotiate on what they deem viable politically in discussions around immigration reform, we call on all people of conscience to denounce policies of militarization and enforcement.
“We must not waver in our opposition to any reform that will continue to militarize our communities. Doing so is not only being untrue to our commitment to human rights and dignity, but an affront to the thousands of men, women and children who have died on our borders, and the families who suffer the agony of their deaths or the bitter anguish of never knowing what has become of their loved ones.”
The complete list of recovered bodies is available on the Coalición de Derechos Humanos website: http://www.derechoshumanosaz.net. This information is available to anyone who requests it from us and is used by our organization to further raise awareness of the human rights crisis we are facing on our borders.
* The complete BMI study, The “Funnel Effect” & Recovered Bodies of Unauthorized Migrants Processed by the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner, 1990-2005, is available on the Derechos Humanos website: http://www.derechoshumanosaz.net/images/pdfs/bmi%20report.pdf