For Immediate Release: Alternative Migrant Trail 2020

MAY 22, 2020

English/Spanish Media Contact: Olivia Mena (210) 723-0975 or Jamie Wilson (520) 730-2665

17th Annual Migrant Trail Walk:
A Virtual Effort to Bear Witness to Migrant Deaths and Border Injustice

TUCSON, Ariz- For 17 years a group of committed individuals have gathered to call for an end to migrant deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border.  Since 2004, every May, hundreds of participants have embarked on a week-long, 75-mile walk from Sásabe, Sonora, Mexico to Tucson, Arizona to call for an end to migrant deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border and to stand in solidarity with victims of global migration. This year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are unable to physically unite to remember those who have died crossing, but our commitment to supporting migrants and their families remains unchanged.  In order to continue to raise awareness about migrant deaths and to help raise money for local border justice organizations, we are launching an alternative Migrant Trail Walk experience to bring people together in a virtual environment.  One hundred percent of registration fees will benefit: BorderLinks, the O’Odham Anti-Border Collective, Keep Tucson Together, and the No More Deaths Emergency COVID-19 Bond Fund.

Since the 1990s, more than 8,000 children, women, and men are known to have died crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. In 2019, 247 deaths were recorded along the U.S.-Mexico Border; 153 human remains were recovered in Southern Arizona. From October 1, 2019 to April 30, 2020,  115 remains have been received by the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office in Tucson, AZ. These deaths are the direct result of U.S. border and immigration “deterrence” policies that intentionally divert migrants into isolated and desolate terrains of the borderlands.   

The current administration continues to increase the militarization of the borderlands and criminalization of (im)migrants, actions which not only directly cause many deaths, but also have devastating consequences for those who seek asylum and refuge. This administration has enacted policies that place children in cages and deport parents without their children, further demonizing and criminalizing those who have fled the violence and uncertainty in their home communities. Now, in a time of global crisis, the conditions in detention centers and the closing of borders to asylum seekers, continue to endanger the lives of (im)migrant families and communities.  None of these practices eliminate the reasons that migrants come to the US, and often mean that people take greater and greater risks to avoid detection.  Migrants who have fled the violence and uncertainty in their home communities to protect themselves and their families frequently attempt to avoid detection by crossing through remote and dangerous terrains. As the summer approaches, and Arizona temperatures reach searing triple-digits, the number of migrants who will perish from dehydration and exposure dramatically increases.  The participants of the Migrant Trail undertake this yearly trek to bear witness to this injustice and demand a stop to these tragic and preventable deaths.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the dangers and obstacles that migrant communities face, especially for almost 28,000 people held in detention by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. According to the agency’s most recent figures, 1,073 people held in detention have confirmed COVID and only 2,172 detainees have been tested. Neglecting to properly test people in detention while simultaneously refusing to release them to family or sponsors who are willing to support them is not only cruel, but it seriously endangers the safety, health, and wellbeing of those who are detained and those who work in detention centers. 

As long-time Migrant Trail participant, Saulo Padilla commented, “In the past few weeks, with the outbreak of COVID19, people in the U.S. have become aware of red dots [on a map] as a sign of death and danger across the country and the world. For humanitarian aid workers along the Mexico-U.S. border, red dots have been marking the sacred places where migrant brothers and sisters have taken their last breath in search of safety, family, a better life, work, and a better future during the past two decades. The first time I saw the red dots on a Humane Borders map, I could no longer stay quiet.”  Padilla added, “I wanted everyone to know about the tragedy happening along the Sonoran Desert. I have walked The Migrant Trail for the past decade to bring attention to the deaths of my migrant brothers and sisters. This year I join this virtual walk as an act of remembrance, solidarity, and to once again recognize the dignity of life represented by every red dot in the desert.” 

Since, 2004, “The Migrant Trail: We Walk for Life” has grown to be a multinational endeavor of allies who hail from diverse regions, faith backgrounds, ages, and ethnicities, and walk together in solidarity with our (im)migrant friends and their families to demand an end to migrant deaths on the border and the criminalization of (im)migration People from all over the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Latin America and Europe have participated in the walk over the years. 

The Alternative Migrant Trail will run from May 25-31, 2020,  and it will feature daily reflections, videos, podcasts, and featured speakers every evening.

Featured Speakers for the week include:

  • Guadalupe Castillo, Community Historian, Keep Tucson Together:” Broadening our Borderlands History”
  • Nellie Jo David, Co-Founder of the O’odham Anti-Border Collective:“O’odham Roots Run Deeper than Walls”
  • Todd Miller, celebrated border journalist and author:“In an Empire of Borders, Build Bridges, Not Walls”
  • Dan Millis, Borderlands Program Manager for Arizona’s Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club:“The Environmental Implications of Border Militarization”
  • Jessica Rodriguez, Southside Worker Center: “Living DACAmented”
  • Margo Cowan, Immigration Attorney and Community Leader: “Community Organizing and Legal Justice in the Borderlands”

For more information and to register go to:

Participants and organizers of the Migrant Trail call on all people of conscience to stand in solidarity with our migrant sisters and brothers and call on the U.S. government to end practices and policies that cause migrant deaths, and to act with humanity and compassion to those endangered by the global pandemic of COVID-19.


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