Border Journey – Sentenced to Death in the Desert

Border Journey – Sentenced to Death in the Desert

The president and members of congress sentenced a woman from Guatemala to capital punishment for crossing an imaginary line in search of work.

The president and members of congress sentenced a woman from Guatemala to capital punishment for crossing an imaginary line in search of work.  The sentence was carried out on June 30 in a remote section of desert 50 miles southwest of Tucson.  The woman was struggling to hike up a hill, collapsed face down on the ground, and died.  Her body was found two days later by a University of Michigan archaeology team that returned on July 15 to create a memorial.  It appears she was in her early 30s and her name is unknown.      

Professor Jason DeLeon showed us the place where she died – a dark stain marked the ground.  He has hiked that trail many times in his work to preserve migrant artifacts (items left behind on the journey) and he often rested in the shade of the mesquite tree where they were building the shrine.  The view looking down the hill from there is starkly beautiful, but she was heading uphill and not able to focus on the scenery.

Her sentence was imposed by the individuals responsible for policies and laws that enable U.S. corporations to freely move their products around the world while placing severe restrictions on the movement of workers.  The border city of Nogales, Sonora has nearly 100 assembly plants that manufacture goods for export to the U.S.  More than 3,000 people work in the Chamberlin factory producing garage door openers.  Those openers cross easily into Nogales, Arizona but the people that make them would have to hike for days in the southern Arizona desert if they dared to seek better-paying work in the U.S.

Since the North America Free Trade Agreement was implemented in 1994, the border with Mexico has been enforced through a policy of “deterrence.”  Unauthorized immigrants are forced to cross through the most isolated and dangerous areas along the border.        

The Border Patrol station in Nogales is the largest in the U.S. and a 20-foot-high border wall separates Nogales, Sonora from Nogales, Arizona.  The woman was prevented from safely crossing between the two sides of the city and, instead, had to cross through the remote desert about 30 miles to the west.

A patrol from the Samaritans organization was driving along Batamote Road on June 30 when they encountered a young man from El Salvador who was in very bad condition.  He said he walked an hour to reach the road and he was seeking help for a woman from Guatemala who was dying.  He asked that the Border Patrol be called to rescue the woman.  The Border Patrol didn’t find her, but they did apprehend the young man and he was then taken to the hospital.

The mission of Samaritans is to save lives in the Southern Arizona desert by providing humanitarian aid to migrants in distress.  It is an expression of compassionate resistance to policies and laws that enable garage door openers to cross the border while punishing people that are crossing in search of a better life.

In love and solidarity,

Scott Nicholson

Scott Nicholson, a member of University Congregational UCC in Missoula, Montana, serves with BorderLinks in Nogales, Mexico as a volunteer at the Community Center.