Tombstone  Tumbleweed
 By: Ursulina Vargas and Chris Simcox
No More Deaths, a volunteer coalition composed of advocacy groups whose work is to support illegal immigrants with water and medical aid, recently held a meeting in Bisbee to train volunteers in dealing with both law enforcement and illegal border crossers they refer to as “guests”.
The primary speaker for the workshop was Margo Cowan, who has defended undocumented people for 35 years. Cowan was indicted in 1972 by the Nixon Administration on 52 counts of aiding and abetting illegal aliens; the charges were dropped by former President Jimmy Carter. Cowan currently serves as legal counsel to Rep. Raul Grijalva.  
Lupe Castillo and Kat Rodriguez of Derechos Humanos were also in attendance to educate the 30 volunteers, many of whom traveled from out of state to attend the training meeting. Derechos Humanos openly states that their goal is to open the borders and abolish the Border Patrol.
“No More Deaths” an illegal immigrant assistance group has set up an aid camp only a few hundred feet within the boundary of the United States border with Mexico. The group operates on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” philosophy to provide water and transportation for illegals to a Tucson safe house known as the South Side Presbyterian Church (home of Humane Borders).
The stated purpose of No More Deaths (No Mas Muertes) is to provide humanitarian aid for undocumented migrants; to prevent their deaths in the desert, and to do so in a non-violent way, while not cooperating with Border Patrol.  As one participant said, “It’s not my job to call Border Patrol—why should I interfere with their destiny?”
No More Deaths members, in cooperation with church groups, provide food and water for immigrants being detained by Border Patrol, and also in the “field” working out of mobile RV aid stations set up in Arivaca and Douglas, Arizona.
Cowan stated that for every immigrant death reported by authorities, there are 10 more that go unreported. There are no statistical facts from U.S. local, state or federal data or Mexican consulates to verify whether the statement is true. Cowan and others at the meeting routinely referred to illegal aliens as “our children.”  Cowan said it is important to set up aid stations in Cochise County because the Tucson Border Patrol sector is now focusing attention on the most active crossing points. Because Border Patrol estimates 5 (illegal aliens) come through for every one caught, Cowan is concerned for the safety of the 5 million “friends,” as she refers to illegal immigrants, who have illegally entered the United States.
She said the rate of recidivism (those who’ve crossed,  been caught, and re-crossed) is so low as to be described as “statistically insignificant” by the Border Patrol.  And, although the Border Patrol claims that they have caught more felons, Cowan stated that is just a label that can be applied to undocumented aliens depending upon how many times they’ve been apprehended while crossing the border. Since October 1, 2003, the start of their fiscal year, Border Patrol reports that as of July 15, agents have apprehended 8,283 convicted felons attempting to cross back into the United States after being deported. If Border Patrol is catching only one in five, that  means that up to 20,000 convicted criminals could have entered the country in that same  period.
Cowan boasted that with 2 to 3 million “guests” coming through every year, the U.S. Attorney can’t prosecute every one, so they decide to go after the coyotes.  As a result of rapes, robberies and other abuses at the hands of smugglers, groups of undocumented migrants are less likely to rely on coyotes to guide them across the border. Often a group of “guests” will appoint a person (who has crossed and been caught) to be their leader, and each person will give him $50 or so for taking the responsibility as the guide if the group is caught.
Cowan told the group of new volunteers that they cannot aid or abet aliens in furtherance of their illegal status in the U.S. How they get away with bending but not breaking the law, is under much scrutiny by Border Patrol and other federal law enforcement agencies who are beginning to keep an eye on the groups who provide aid to illegal aliens.  Cowan says ignorance is the key. “All you have to do, the most important thing is, to not ask if they are illegal or where they are from!”  Cowan says if they are in the United States, then if volunteers don’t ask, they can assume they are helping citizens. Many of their aid stations are only a few hundred feet from the border fence. The same is true of water stations set up on BLM land by the Tucson based Humane Borders group.  
No More Deaths volunteers, can, and will transport possible illegal aliens to receive medical help.  Cowan’s strategy, “You can ask them questions to see how they are feeling, and observe their condition.  There is a list of approved doctors and nurses that a volunteer can call to get an OK to take the migrant, for a medical evaluation.” Cowan said as long as you have permission from one of the doctors or registered nurses in the “friends network” then you can legally transport them. The group claims to have a list of such doctors that volunteers can call to get permission to transport the “guests”.
A volunteer suggested putting magnetized Samaritan signs with a red cross on the cars when approaching undocumented migrants or when transporting them, so that everyone will know their mission is a medically necessary or humanitarian effort.  Another volunteer said that doctors he had worked with in the organization had said that if a person is crossing the desert in the summer,  regardless of whether or not they look sick,  they all need medical help.  If anyone in the “friends network” were stopped by Border Patrol, while transporting aliens in their cars, volunteers were instructed to identify themselves as being with No More Deaths, since there is “an umbrella of political protection” associated with the group.  And they should also say that they were taking the aliens for a medical evaluation in Tucson at St. Mary’s Hospital or for  respite at South Side Presbyterian Church (home of Humane Borders).  
According to Cowan, “we are transparent,” so there is no attempt to conceal undocumented migrants by making them lie down in the back seat or hide in the trunk.  
Someone asked, “Is it legal to take them home with you, like if you need to pick up the list of doctors and nurses you need to take them to?”  Cowan said, “Yes, but you must take them there,” (to medical help).
“If you meet a group and some are in distress, and others are not, you cannot transport those who are OK,” Cowan answered.  “We encourage people who want to (transport those who are OK) to do that, on their own,” but we don’t want to get in trouble, so we don’t do that as a group, under the name No More Deaths,” Cowan warned the volunteers.
Another question that arose was if a “friend” doctor recommended a 48-hour respite, could the volunteer take the aliens home, let them take a shower, and then let them use the phone at the end of that period of time?  Cowan said that although a church designated as a respite center was preferable, it was all right to do this, but if the alien calls out on your home phone, you want to make sure your ID is blocked, as you do not want coyotes knowing your number.
Kat Rodriguez asked, “How do they get from your home to the bus, or other transportation (if you are not allowed to transport them)?”  Others also wanted to know if it was legal to give them some money for their trip.
Cowan responded:  “Almost everyone coming over has family here who will come and pick them up.  Public transportation is just too dangerous.”  Other volunteers were still puzzled and asked further about how to aid aliens in resuming their journey after a medically recommended respite.  Then Cowan added, “This is just what No More Deaths recommends legally; other friends do other pieces.”   No More Deaths official policy is  “We can’t do this piece—other people do this piece, just in case there are some government spies here.  It’s important for us to do everything to keep the criminal enterprise part away from our humanitarian efforts,” Cowan explained. The volunteers smiled and laughed.  
Later Cowan added that most volunteers in the group might know someone who would “do the other piece” but there is no organized group to perform transportation functions for the “guests”.  Cowan warned the volunteers that if they are detained for any reason by law enforcement while transporting an alien, the case must be turned over to the state’s attorney, whose decision it will be either to dismiss it or to prosecute.
The group debated if it was legal to give “guests” a map, so that they knew where they were and how to get to where they were going.
Cowan said that it was a legal gray area; and “we are concerned that people may misinterpret them (the maps) and they won’t be helpful.”
Others in the group shared stories about Border Patrol agents who did not want them to give water or food to alien detainees in the field, and they were assured that it is perfectly legal to give them the “Know Your Rights” card, and to share food and water with them.  Cowan said those agents who are resistant to No More Deaths volunteers’ help are:  “young agents, scared to death, based on lack of knowledge, substantively and culturally, of whom they are dealing with.”
Kat Rodriguez said, “God forbid you feed a felon.”
The group discussed the necessity of getting a written commitment from local law enforcement (cities, county sheriffs) to not enforce immigration law, since only the Department of Homeland Security has the authority to inquire into a person’s legal status in this country.  
As far as the Border Patrol is concerned, they have no authority over you while you are on private property, and that includes churches that may be used for respites.
One of the speakers claimed that there were no kitchens in the detention facilities, and sometimes people there said they had not been fed for 48 hours.  She wanted to know if the group cared to organize an effort to bring a mobile kitchen to the incarceration facility to feed the “guests”. Toward the end of the meeting, Lupe Castillo, a volunteer coordinator added,  “Let’s not get so wrapped up in humanitarian aid that we forget our principle effort is in changing border and immigration policy.”
One of four new helicopters on the job in southern Arizona is improving border security and saving lives.
All of the illegal alien groups CHD encountered during the past week had plenty of water. In fact, they had plenty of water and food provided by Food City and Church’s Chicken out of Sierra Vista. Someone in the area is making food and water drops at the lay-up areas. Of course all of the trash is left behind  for landowners to pick up.
The biggest land grabbers in the United States made good on their edict to keep citizens out of  the southern portion of the San Pedro Riparian Conservation area south of highway 92 in Palominas. The area once cherished by birdwatchers from around the world is now virtually useless, unless you are a drug smuggler or smuggler of human cargo. Even though CHD and ABP have been instrumental in assisting Border Patrol and The Department of Homeland Security with stopping illegal traffic  through the protected area, (CHD has assisted with approximately 1,500 in this exact spot) the Bureau of Land Management has erected signs notifying citizens of the United States that they are not wanted there. The move was obvious:  to keep Civil Homeland defense and American Border Patrol volunteers out of the area.
Another week in Cochise County and President George Bush, and Governor Janet Napolitano are still AWOL –shirking their duty to protect American citizens from invasion of a foreign enemy, while pandering for special interest votes. They both should be removed from office.  Three illegal immigrant sex offenders from Mexico were caught by U.S. Border Patrol agents in Douglas and Naco over the past weekend. They were
  Why doesn’t BLM want citizen border watch groups near the border? Could it be they are concerned for our safety? Or, could it be because BLM agents are on the take from smugglers?
attempting to reenter the United States after being previously convicted and deported. We can only imagine how many times they have traveled back and forth preying on American citizens. Since Oct. 1, 2003, through Sunday, 9,051 illegal immigrants with criminal records have been caught reentering the United States through Arizona. Of those, 137 had records of sexual offense –poor migrant workers? President Bush, where are you?
Jorge Gonzalez-Lopez was taken into custody about six miles east of Douglas Thanks to cross agency criminal data bases, during processing, his fingerprints came back as a person who was convicted of child molestation in 2003 in Washington state.
Next up was 37-year-old Mario Sanchez-Gonzalez who was apprehended seven miles east of Naco, Arizona. His fingerprints came back showing he had been convicted of sexual assault in 1995.
Salvador Cayatano-Catalon, 31, was apprehended and taken into custody about 12 miles west of Naco, along an under protected area of the San Pedro River just closed to civilian border watch groups. He was convicted of sexual assault of child in 1995 in Nebraska. All three should be executed or at the very least get life in prison.
Monday night, a group of “mules” - human drug smugglers - were seen crossing into the United States about 400 yards west of the Naco Port of Entry, around 10:15 p.m.
Agents responded to the area, the mules ran back into Mexico, dropping bundles of marijuana. Agents got the dope, but not the smugglers who, while agents were moving the bundles, began throwing rocks from the Mexican side of the line, causing damage to two windshields, no agents were injured.
Thursday,July 15, 2004
Border 006.wmf
Border 006.wmf
  "Let's not get so wrapped up in humanitarian aid that we forget our principle effort is in changing border and immigration policy."
Lupe Castillo, Derechos Humanos

CHD discovered this group of men sleeping under trees over the weekend. The encounter was documented on film by a crew working on a television special to air on the Country Music Television network in September.