FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
MAY 10, 2021
English/Spanish Media Contact: Olivia Mena (210) 723-0975 or Jamie Wilson (520) 730-2665
18th Annual Migrant Trail: A Virtual Experience Bearing Witness to Migrant Deaths and Border Injustice
TUCSON, Ariz- For 18 years, a group of committed individuals have gathered to call for an end to migrant deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border. Every May, hundreds of participants embark on a week-long, 75-mile walk from Sasabe, 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 migrants across the globe.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are unable to physically unite to remember those migrants who have died, but our commitment to supporting migrants and their families remains unchanged. To continue to raise awareness about migrant deaths and to help raise money for local border justice organizations during the pandemic, we are hosting our second consecutive Alternative Migrant Trail experience to bring people together in a virtual environment. The Alternative Migrant Trail registration fees will be donated to support four projects doing vital work in these dire times to fight for justice and support (im)migrants.This year’s benefit organizations are: Centro de Recursos para Migrantes/ Migrant Resource Center in Agua Prieta, Sonora, MX., Indigenous Languages Office in Tucson, AZ, Justice for All Initiative Campaign in Tucson, AZ, and Casa de la Esperanza Community and Migrant Center in Sasabe, Sonora, MX.
Since the 1990s, more than 8,000 children, women, and men are known to have died crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. In 2020, 226 deaths were recorded in Southern Arizona along the U.S.-Mexico border. Already this year, the remains of 51 people have been recovered from the Arizona borderlands. 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 ongoing militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border, and the recent dismantling of the asylum system under the Trump administration means that migrants and asylum seekers are increasingly cut off from legal recourse and forced to fend for themselves,” said Guadalupe Castillo, a long-time Migrant Trail participant and guest speaker for this year’s program.
“I have been going to the border town Sásabe, Mexico for close to six years. However, during the last eight months, we were seeing as many as 700 people deported to this tiny town without many resources or infrastructure every week, and we knew we needed to do something,” said Gail Kocourek, a Samaritan volunteer and organizer who worked with Dora Luz Rodriguez, No More Deaths, Humane Borders, and Tucson Samaritans to help launch the Casa de la Esperanza Community and Migrant Center in Sásabe, Sonora, MX, one of the beneficiary programs for this year’s Alternative Migrant Trail Walk.
Since March, 2020, the U.S. Government has largely suspended all asylum provisions for those seeking protection by invoking “Title 42”: a provision that blocks asylum seekers and expels undocumented immigrants based on perceived risks to public health. Human Rights Watch has documented a number of rights abuses associated with this practice including violations of the Convention against Torture and the International Covenant on Political and Civil rights, prohibiting the return of people to situations of torture and ill-treatment.
Despite promises to humanize Trump-era immigration policies, the Biden administration continues to employ “Title 42” to rapidly deport thousands of asylum-seeking individuals and families into Mexican border towns, where shelters remain overwhelmed or closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. People who have fled violence and poverty in order to protect themselves and their families, and those who cross the border to rejoin family and fill essential jobs in the US economy, continue to be criminalized by U.S. policies; driven into dangerous terrains; detained in facilities that increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission; and deported to life-threatening conditions.
“At our migrant center in Agua Prieta, Sonora, we welcome and calm the suffering of more than 100 women and men each day, who are thrown back into Mexico without any consideration of their common humanity and dignity. Most of these vulnerable people have walked the same trails, in the Altar Valley that we walk on our Migrant Trail journey each year,” shared Sister Judy Bourg, a volunteer at the Centro de Recursos para Migrantes in Agua Prieta, Sonora, MX and long-time Migrant Trail participant.
“As I greet each exhausted person at our aid center, I know that this person, who stands in front of me with heartfelt dreams and gifts, could easily become a ‘red dot’ on the Humane Borders’ death map,” said Bourg.
The participants of the Migrant Trail undertake this annual event to bear witness to the injustices migrants face and demand a stop to the tragic and preventable deaths of people attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. 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 United States, Mexico, Canada, Latin America, and Europe have participated in the walk.
The Alternative Migrant Trail 2021 will run from May 30-June 6, 2021, and it will feature daily morning reflections, videos, podcasts, and featured speakers, and interactive discussions.
Featured Speakers for the week include:
Sunday: Welcome and Introductions
- Guadalupe Castillo, Keep Tucson Together
- Kat Rodriguez, Migrant Trail Organizing Committee
- Magda Mankel, PhD, Migrant Migrant Trail Organizing Committee
Monday: Indigenous Border Realities
- Verlon Jose, Traditional O’Odham Elders
- Blake Gentry, Indigenous Languages Office
Tuesday: Border Militarization: A New Paradigm of Chaos and Cruelty
- Isabel Garcia, Coalición de Derechos Humanos
- Xochitl Mercado, Volunteer Coordinator, FOIA’s & Citizenship Team Lead, Keep
- Tucson Together and No More Deaths
- Sarah Roberts, Volunteer with Keep Tucson Together and No More Deaths
Wednesday: Welcoming the Stranger: Community Response and Action
- Diego Piña Lopez, Casa Alitas Welcome Center
- Tracy Taft, Ajo Samaritans
- Sarah Jackson, Casa de Paz
Thursday: Creating a Culture of Accountability and Oversight
- Katy Murdza, American Immigration Council
- Jenn Budd, Former Senior Patrol Agent and Senior Intelligence Agent for the US Border Patrol
- Todd Miller, Author, journalist, and co-founder of the Migrant Trail
Friday: A Legal Perspective on the Border
- Margo Cowan, Immigration Attorney and Public Defender, Tucson, AZ
- Jose Ulises Bernabe Garcia, Immigration Attorney, Tucson, AZ
- Perla de Angel, Attorney, Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico
Saturday: An Overview and Plan for Action with Participant Breakout Discussions
- Sunday: Panel Discussion: People of Conscience and Faith: Bear Witness and Take Action
- Ajahn Sarayut, Buddist Meditation Center
- Natividad Cano, Indigenous community member
- Tom Kowal, Quaker
- Tina Schlabauch, Mennonite
- Mark Adams, Presbyterian
- Mohyeddin Abdulaziz, Palestinian community member
- Br. David Buer, Franciscan Brother
- Bob Norris, community member
For full bios of speakers visit: https://azmigranttrail.com/alternative-migrant-trail-2021-speaker-full-bios/.
For more information and to register go to: www.azmigranttrail.com.
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.