Ignacio Ibarra, Arizona Daily Star, Jun. 8
Lifesaving water stations like those that dot the Arizona desert, providing relief to weary illegal border crossers, are being installed south of the border, along a stretch of Sonoran land between Naco and Agua Prieta.
Humane Borders, the Tucson-based private organization that places the blue barrels filled with water and marked by flags atop 20-foot poles along desert paths favored by illegal entrants, plans to have as many as a dozen new stations south of the border in projects involving partners from the United States and Mexico.
Further, two more of the humanitarian organization’s water stations have been placed on Bureau of Land Management land less than 30 yards from the border along the same stretch of land where 29 illegal entrants died last year.
Robin Hoover, president of Humane Borders, has obtained permits to place two more stations on BLM sites along the San Pedro River but has been unable to obtain permission to cross the land owned by a Tombstone-area mining company to install them.
Bertha Alicia de la Rosa Carrizales, coordinator for Grupo Beta, said her agency helped identify the areas where the water stations could do the most good. The agency is charged by the Mexican government with protecting migrants.
She said Grupo Beta agents are helping to maintain the three water stations that have been set up along the railroad tracks several hundred yards south of the border. She’s been asked to supply possible sites for up to a dozen locales that could stretch from Agua Prieta to Cananea.
“We looked for areas with the highest flow of people,” de la Rosa said.
“Obviously the driest, hottest areas with the longest walks are in the Altar desert at Sasabe, but the potential for problems here is very high.
“There are places where the walk is very long, through high mountain deserts that can be very difficult to cross.”
Miguel Escobar Valdez, Mexico’s consul in Douglas, said he was not aware of Grupo Beta’s involvement in establishing the new water stations but agreed they are needed.
If the Border Patrol is successful in discouraging illegal border crossing in the desert west of Nogales, “They’re going to be moving to the areas where they feel there are fewer problems,” he said.
He said having water stations in the area makes sense because a hallmark of the exposure deaths in the Cochise County corridor last year was that they occurred less than three miles from the border, indicating many of the illegal entrants were “already in very bad shape by the time they reached the border.”
Humane Borders donated equipment to Healing Our Borders, an immigrant rights group based in Douglas that has already set up three water stations with the help of a Presbyterian church in Agua Prieta and Grupo Beta.
Mark Adams, a member of Healing Our Borders who heads the Fronteras De Cristo, a Presbyterian Church ministry in Agua Prieta, said members were trying to avoid publicity about the water stations in Mexico and declined to comment.
Water stations on federal land on the U.S. side of the border have the tanks refilled daily by volunteers under an agreement that includes several stipulations, including restrictions on what Humane Borders can say publicly about the stations and their location.
“I have a moral obligation to provide water to these people,” Hoover said. “If they (BLM) doesn’t like what I say, they can yank the permit.”
“What I can say is they are being used, and that I’m anticipating we’re going to see a whole bunch more migrants coming through Cochise County this year.”
He said the first water station on federal BLM land went up a little more than a month ago. It was dispensing more than 50 gallons of water a day within the first week, said Hoover, who did not know how much water was being dispensed from stations placed in Mexico.
Glenn Spencer, founder of Sierra Vista’s American Border Patrol, said that deaths along the Arizona-Sonora border continue to rise despite the efforts of groups like Humane Borders. The group uses equipment including video cameras, computers and a portable satellite uplink to monitor illegal entrants, reporting the groups to the U.S. Border Patrol.
The additional water stations will have little effect on the amount of illegal immigration in the area nor in the number of border crosser deaths that will be recorded this summer, he said.
Spencer said the placement of water stations is the clearest evidence yet that Humane Borders and other American humanitarian organizations are aiding and abetting Mexico in its effort to invade the border.
“They are sending their people north as a means of occupying and eventually placing their jurisdiction over large portions of the United States,” Spencer said. “That means these people are traitors.”