Organ Pipe Desert: A Collection of Water Tanks to Save Lives and Migrants' Belongings Left Behind

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Every summer, as temperatures rise to the three digits, there are concerns for the thousands of migrants crossing through the remote areas of the Sonoran Desert. The Arizona Republic reports that 17 bodies have been recovered for the month of June and a total of 48 migrants have been found dead since the beginning of the year, according to Pima County Chief Medical Examiner Gregory Hess.

Summer is the most concerning time for immigration rights and humanitarian groups like Humane Borders and No Más Muertes/No More Deaths. The latter leaves gallons of water (all with messages of encouragement), canned food and medicine in desert areas migrants are likely to walk through. Humane Borders volunteers fill up water tanks that hold 30+ gallons, also in areas where they notice a pattern of high migrant activity. If volunteers come across migrants who need medical attention, they're prepared to help. Then, there are also times when they have to get Border Patrol involved to save people's lives.

On Thursday, I went on a 12-hour water run to the western part of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument with Joel Smith of Humane Borders. The organization also has water tanks in other portions of Organ Pipe, as well as in the desert of Altar Valley in Sasabe, and in Ironwood Forest National Monument, near Marana. 

This water saves humans. The issue of humanitarian aid shouldn't be up for discussion, even as politics continuously dehumanize migrants.

I'm eternally grateful to people like Joel, who volunteer entire days to try to save as many valuable lives as possible.

Joel Smith checking a water hose that's filling up a 30+ gallon tank. It was defective, so we manually filled up the tank 5 gallons at a time. There are two water tanks in west Organ Pipe, but they are located a considerable distance apart, which is why filling them up takes the entire day. - MARIA INÉS TARACENA
  • Maria Inés Taracena
  • Joel Smith checking a water hose that's filling up a 30+ gallon tank. It was defective, so we manually filled up the tank 5 gallons at a time. There are two water tanks in west Organ Pipe, but they are located a considerable distance apart, which is why filling them up takes the entire day.

Black water gallons don't reflect sun light that could attract Border Patrol agents. We found close to 20 of them scattered through the route we followed. Migrants purchase them in Mexico. - MARIA INÉS TARACENA
  • Maria Inés Taracena
  • Black water gallons don't reflect sun light that could attract Border Patrol agents. We found close to 20 of them scattered through the route we followed. Migrants purchase them in Mexico.

Gallons of water and canned pinto beans probably left there by No More Deaths volunteers. - MARIA INÉS TARACENA
  • Maria Inés Taracena
  • Gallons of water and canned pinto beans probably left there by No More Deaths volunteers.

Message reads, "Pure water. Arrive well to your destination." - MARIA INÉS TARACENA
  • Maria Inés Taracena
  • Message reads, "Pure water. Arrive well to your destination."

Oftentimes migrants wrap their shoes with slippers made of carpet fabric to avoid leaving foot marks on the desert sand. - MARIA INÉS TARACENA
  • Maria Inés Taracena
  • Oftentimes migrants wrap their shoes with slippers made of carpet fabric to avoid leaving foot marks on the desert sand.

We found several black water gallons and a handful of backpacks under a tree. One of the backpacks had a toothbrush, tooth paste, flour tortillas, a package of beans, headphones, an extra pair of shoes and coins (very few Mexican pesos and Guatemalan quetzales). Their identities are narrowed down to a handful of possessions in a backpack. - MARIA INÉS TARACENA
  • Maria Inés Taracena
  • We found several black water gallons and a handful of backpacks under a tree. One of the backpacks had a toothbrush, tooth paste, flour tortillas, a package of beans, headphones, an extra pair of shoes and coins (very few Mexican pesos and Guatemalan quetzales). Their identities are narrowed down to a handful of possessions in a backpack.

One Guatemalan quetzal. The backpack may have belonged to a fellow Guatemalan or someone who passed through Guatemala. - MARIA INÉS TARACENA
  • Maria Inés Taracena
  • One Guatemalan quetzal. The backpack may have belonged to a fellow Guatemalan or someone who passed through Guatemala.

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