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Humanizing
the Border

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On a daily basis, Mexican nationals attempt to cross the U.S. border. We hear a lot about those apprehended trying to get over, but what about the ones who don’t make it? Volunteers in the New Mexico desert are trying to save lives. Kim Riemland reports.  [Español]

 
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SCRIPT:

(Locator: Nogales/Mexico Border)

The Rev. Max Cisneros, Desert Ministries: “Some bodies have been found here. Something like 7,000, in the last ten years. And there’s probably another 7,000 out there that will never be found.”

Eighty-one-year-old retired United Methodist pastor Max Cisneros searches for those lost in the desert. Many times he only finds their bodies. Driven by the quest for a better life here in the U.S., they fall victim to the harsh desert environment.

Robert Boatright, U.S. Border Patrol: “Last year, unfortunately, there were 31 deaths in the El Paso sector. Currently, we’ve recorded 19 deaths in the El Paso sector so far this year.”

Cisneros knows these migrants are breaking the law but says he’s not taking a political stand. He’s looking at it from a humanitarian point of view.

The Rev. Max Cisneros: “We’re concerned with no more deaths.”

Believing that every human life deserves dignity, he places crosses in the desert for those who have died there.

Cisneros founded Desert Ministries, funding it out of his own pocket. Now, the United Methodist Committee on Relief provides blankets, medical supplies and health kits. Churches and other volunteer organizations along the border get those supplies to people caught by the border patrol.

The Rev. Ernesto Trevino, El Mesias Methodist Church, Mesilla, Arizona: “Albuquerque is far from Nogales, Arizona and he driving, he taking time, and make a good job and bringing this help for the people.”

Aided by a few volunteers from a group called Humane Borders, Cisneros often travels into the Mexican desert to fill 55 gallon drums with water.

Gene Buell, Humane Borders Volunteer: “We come out once a week and refill, trying to keep people from dying in the desert from thirst, hypothermia, things like that.”

Deported by U.S. Customs to border shanty towns like this, many will attempt to cross back to the U.S. within minutes. This woman walked seven hours before she was apprehended.

(Unidentified Woman) “She’s going to try to cross tonight, tomorrow, the next day, whatever it takes.”

Cisneros knows his efforts won’t affect the number of people trying to flee Mexico. He only wants to save lives.

The Rev. Max Cisneros: “It’s sad. I cannot understand why the United States has not come up with a solution to this problem.”

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Desert Ministries receives funding from UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, through an annual church collection called, “One Great Hour of Sharing.”

For more information, you can contact Desert Ministries at 505-344-0422.

Posted: March 25, 2009