SASABE, Arizona – Last night, humanitarian aid workers scrambled to triage and support 300 asylum seekers stranded along the border wall east of Sasabe, Arizona. A winter storm blew in, dumping rain upon the hundreds of men, women, children, and babies left without adequate shelter in the remote location. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, volunteers notified Border Patrol that they would be driving asylum seekers to the Sasabe substation to be processed, to get them out of the life-threatening cold.
Volunteers were told that this was illegal. Meanwhile, Border Patrol agents refused to send personnel to the area, citing road conditions and limited space in vehicles as the reason for their lack of response. They advised volunteers to call 911 if there was a medical emergency.
The message from Border Patrol was loud and clear: you’re on your own.
Despite the constraints of providing humanitarian aid in a place where cell phone service is limited and the nearest ambulance is two hours away, humanitarian aid volunteers did place multiple calls to 911. Through the rainy day and the frigid night, no emergency services arrived. “Without us volunteers everybody would have died. Everybody would have died,” one volunteer responding to the situation said. “With no tarps, no rain gear, no food, and no water, 300 adults, elders, and children could have died from exposure. We were a group of 8-15 volunteers triaging 300 people, trying to prevent hundreds of deaths. We cannot keep this up. We are not meant for this. We need bigger resources and responses.”
There are still hundreds of people stranded along the wall, waiting to be picked up by Border Patrol.
Angela Gervasi, Nogales International, 7 December 2023
Over a recent December weekend in a western corner of Santa Cruz County, a man from Morocco leaned on crutches as he attempted to trek through the desert. Stationed near the U.S.-Mexico border fence, other migrants lit small bonfires in an effort to counteract the dwindling temperatures of nightfall.
These are two of the scenes humanitarian volunteers recounted to the NI as they described a relatively new entry point for large groups of asylum-seeking migrants: a rugged area west of Nogales and east of Sásabe.
A new report found that the way the Pima County Sheriff’s Department responds to distress calls from undocumented migrants lost in the desert is discriminatory, violates the department’s own standards of conduct, and has led to deaths and disappearances that could have been avoided. The sheriff’s department disputes these findings.
Advocacy group No More Deaths reviewed more than two thousand 911 calls handled by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department from the summer of 2016 to the summer of 2018, a sample of 64 emergency calls transferred to Border Patrol in June 2022, and another 4 cases of English speakers calling for emergency search and rescue during the same month, which No More Deaths obtained under public records law.
Yesterday, No More Deaths released Separate and Deadly: Segregation of 911 Emergency Services in the Arizona Borderlands. The report is the latest installment of Disappeared, a four-part series that examines the Border Patrol’s role in the deaths and disappearances in the U.S./Mexico border region. Separate and Deadly analyzes the Pima County (Arizona) Sheriff’s Department’s emergency response system. The report finds vastly different responses to the distress calls on 911 of migrants based on their citizenship status. Migrant distress calls are routinely transferred to the Border Patrol, which No More Deaths says has “demonstrated a deadly negligence when it comes to emergency response and rescue.” In 2023, the remains of 175 people have been found in Arizona. Countless more remain disappeared.
On June 27, 2022, around 1:44 a.m., a man lost in the desert outside Tucson, Arizona called 911. An emergency services dispatcher for Pima County answered. The man, clearly distressed, tried to describe his surroundings and explain that he was lost, wet and freezing. But before he could finish, the dispatcher interrupted him, saying, “I don’t understand, un momento,” and abruptly transferred the call to the U.S. Border Patrol. The agent who picked up shushed the caller as he started to speak —“Cállate!” (“Be quiet!”) — and spoke to the dispatcher instead, in English. Then they hung up, leaving the man to the agent. An incident report suggests that no actions were taken to follow up or locate the lost caller: “No additional calls have come from the subject. … At this time the caller has not been identified and not located.”
TUCSON, Arizona – On November 14th, No More Deaths released Separate and Deadly: Segregation of 911 Emergency Services in the Arizona Borderlands. The report is the latest installment of Disappeared, a four-part series that examines Border Patrol’s role in the crisis of mass death and disappearance in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands.
Separate and Deadly analyzes the Pima County Sheriff’s Department’s emergency response system and the segregation of 911 calls in the border region. The findings of the report shed light on a discriminatory system in which vastly different responses are allocated to callers based on their perceived citizenship status. For people migrating through the region, their distress calls to 911 are customarily transferred to Border Patrol – an agency that has already demonstrated a deadly negligence when it comes to emergency response and rescue.
From the report:
“In March 2018, a man contacted 911 eleven times over the course of ten hours. He was lost and alone. As the hours passed, his condition clearly deteriorated, and his voice began to fade. It appeared that Border Patrol was not actively searching for him… Pima County dispatchers continued to transfer his call to Border Patrol every time he called… The county’s own Search and Rescue team was never notified, and the county never activated a search for him. Eventually the man stopped calling. The outcome of his case is unknown.”
The No More Deaths team reviewed thousands of 911 calls and took testimony from humanitarian aid volunteers, in addition to other relevant data sources. In 99% of the calls where the caller was presumed to be undocumented, no intake or assessment was conducted, in 68% of the calls the dispatcher lacked fluency in Spanish to be able to communicate effectively and 50% of the callers were given no notice before being transferred to Border Patrol.
“Not only is call segregation based on presumed immigration status unlawful, the consequences of such practices are deadly,” says Parker Deighan, one of the report’s contributors. “The findings of this report raise serious questions about the county’s complicity in the ongoing crisis of death and disappearance.”
In 2023 alone, the remains of 175 people have been found in Arizona. Countless more remain disappeared.
In recent years, No More Deaths has grown from an all-volunteer organization to incorporate paid positions for critical tasks that are difficult to fill with volunteer labor. Due to the non-hierarchical structure of No More Deaths, this position is not solely responsible for all HR issues but instead is responsible for coordinating volunteers and staff to make sure HR and personnel issues are handled. The personnel coordinator is responsible for organizing systems to support NMD staff, ensuring that staff is meeting expectations, and coordinating responses to conflicts or issues involving staff.
Schedule and organize quarterly personnel meetings to discuss any organization and personnel-related updates.
Track employee contract end dates and renewals along with facilitating those processes.
Managing hiring processes for all working groups and ensuring that they are happening in a timely manner.
Communicate with bookkeepers about payroll updates, and new hire/exit updates.
Met with new hires to complete all necessary paperwork and a new-hire orientation onboarding.
Manage health & dental communication with our insurance broker.
Manage staff feedback processes on a quarterly basis.
Coordinate meetings with staff to share feedback given through the quarterly feedback process.
Coordinate meetings with employees (upon request) to ensure they are supported and getting their needs met.
Coordinate the completion of a personnel manual by drafting policies and presenting them to the organization for approval.
Adjust policies as the needs of the employees and organization arise.
Facilitate HR needs and grievance/accountability processes – direction involvement is expected at first and if a third-party service is needed the Personnel Coordinator is expected to organize this.
Organize the monthly organizational-wide meetings – handle most communications & logistics.
Participate in the No More Deaths Grievance Committee for a minimum of 4 hours per month.
Strong communication and organizational skills.
Ability to manage multiple projects and keep track of many moving pieces.
Conflict mediation experience and experience with transformative justice models.
Independently able to identify issues and come up with innovative solutions.
Familiarity with or a willingness to learn about Arizona labor laws.
Experience with Microsoft Office programs and ability to learn new technologies (if not familiar) i.e. Nextcloud/Jotform.
Strong meeting facilitation skills.
Bilingual in English/Spanish.
Term: 12 months
Hours: 30 hours a month, $20 an hour (pre-tax)
Work phone and computer provided
Mostly remote (90%)
Must be based in Southern Arizona and able to attend monthly meetings in Tucson.
No More Deaths is an equal-opportunity employer and strongly encourages applications from people of color, persons with disabilities, women, and LGBTQ+ applicants. Individuals with personal ties to the border or who identify as coming from an affected community are especially encouraged to apply. Thanks for your interest in this position!
To the No More Deaths community of supporters, clients of Keep Tucson Together, and the community of Tucson:
Effective July 1st, 2022, Keep Tucson Together (KTT), the free legal clinic headed by attorney Margo Cowan that offers advice and assistance for immigration cases, will no longer be part of No More Deaths (NMD). The separation is supported by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson (UUCT) which provides NMD with fiscal sponsorship. In this statement, the name NMD and the term “we” refers to the majority of NMD that will continue to fulfill our mission, and does not include KTT or those NMD volunteers who opposed the separation. We are sharing details of the separation out of a commitment to transparency and accountability to all affected and the community.
Last summer, multiple families assisted by KTT came to NMD and showed evidence that their cases had been mismanaged. We assessed the information that was shared with us and found there to be a troubling pattern of misleading information, lack of communication and disrespectful behavior. The stories shared by the families are devastating and we honor their bravery in coming forward. After several requests for information and exhaustive efforts to hold KTT accountable internally, we have decided to no longer be associated with services provided by KTT.
When the families came forward, members of KTT and several long-term NMD volunteers refused to believe any wrongdoing had occurred. The repeated gaslighting and condescension were offensive and traumatizing for the affected families. The decision to dis-associate from KTT was further validated by persistent disrespectful treatments of NMD staff and volunteers during this process by Margo Cowan, other members of KTT and some individuals in NMD. These interactions brought to the forefront deep-rooted white supremacy in NMD that has been present since its founding and which we must continue to confront.
We acknowledge the essential services that KTT has offered the undocumented people in Tucson. We hope that as an organization independent from NMD, KTT will change their practices to prioritize client communication, informed consent, and a responsible caseload.
We are unable to speak on the subject of the future operations of KTT. To inquire about their continued services please contact KTT by phone at (520) 623-4084 or in person at the KTT office at 730 S Osborne Ave in Tucson.
If you are assisted by KTT and you have had problems with the way KTT has managed your case, please contact us by phone or email: