The Borderlands 12/2019

Bernardine and I spent a couple of compelling days in the Sonoran Desert (Desierto de Sonora) in Arizona last week with the brave and passionate border activists from No More Deaths ( These brilliant organizers and movement-builders work to end the suffering in the borderlands by mobilizing people to work openly and in community to advocate for a humane immigration policy, to raise consciousness about the rough reality faced by border travelers, to offer direct aid and humanitarian assistance through leaving water, food, and essential supplies for folks crossing through this treacherous terrain, to demilitarize the border, and to uphold fundamental human rights. Straight-forward, sensible, direct, just, and loving. In the longer run, these folks imagine a world without borders, which is an exercise akin to imagining a world without prisons—a lot would have to change for those dreams to become reality, but that’s precisely the value of unleashing our most radical imaginations.

Please stop before reading any further, and donate whatever you can to support the work of these loving warriors. (

The desert is vast (100,000 square miles), encompassing parts of Sonora and Baja California in Mexico, as well as stretches of California and Arizona in the US. Scanning the immense landscape—the boundless sky, the subtle colors, the wide variety of rocks and plants—was captivating last week. But from a different angle of regard, the desert appeared a manifestation of hell itself, an unforgiving site of torture and pain and agonizing death.

We slept an an isolated base camp under a dozen quilts and blankets as the temperature dropped below freezing; by mid-day the atmosphere was searing. And we drove down dirt paths and hiked dry river beds to deliver canned goods, and to replace empty water jugs with full ones.

Looking more closely, the desert is simply the desert—the killer is in fact the cruel, deliberate, and explicit policy of the US government, which is to channel people away from common and traditional border crossings into an area where they are certain to suffer, and then to deploy stories of their torment and slaughter as a deterrent to other travelers. Cruel and, sadly, all-too-usual.

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