Humane Borders is an organization in Arizona that increases awareness about the dangers of crossing the desert for illegal immigrants through maps and posters. ESRI provided a discounted copy of ArcGis that the group uses to map the locations where immigrants succumb to the harsh environment.
The group used these locations to locate their volunteer-managed water stations that provide water to immigrants that are often ill-prepared for the desert crossing. They also created posters displaying the locations where immigrants have died crossing to discourage immigrants from making the dangerous journey. A recent effort by the group layered cell phone tower locations over the border crossing GIS to advocate for increase tower coverage. They argue that because many deaths occur outside of the covered area, and rescue beacons can’t be placed in enough areas to reach everyone, cell phone service would allow distressed immigrants to call for government rescue.
Another interesting consequence of creating a GIS of border crossing deaths is that the consequences of immigration policy can be mapped. NPR reports that Humane Borders has noticed that while border crossings have decreased this year, the number of fatal crossings has stayed the same. The increase in mortality rate may correlate with their observation that deaths are occuring farther from roads. U.S. Immigration policy has expanded fences and increased Border Patrol agents. Instead of discouraging illegal passage into the US, immigrants and human smugglers are forced to take more dangerous routes. These maps provide invaluable revelations about the human cost of immigration policy. It also provides groups like Humane Borders with an informed, practical, and meaningful way to save lives as immigrants continue north towards opportunity.
Cell service maps article from the Tucson Weekly.
Carl Kunda, VERTICES intern