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Borderlinks: searching for a body

Image courtesy of Emily Rodden.

I went out on a walk with the Tucson Samaritans on Jan. 17, 2019.

Our goal on this walk was to search for the remains of a man, a migrant named Andres, who crossed the border illegally. I will be using aliases in this story out of respect and confidentiality of the family.

Andres was last seen in June. On June 18, Andres started his journey through the southern Arizona desert. With a coyote and a group of migrants, Andres was brought across the border. The story, we heard, was that the group Andres was traveling with was broken up by the Border Patrol. Then, Andres and a companion, Christo, were separated from the greater group. Christo decided to give himself up to Border Patrol. He was detained and deported. Andres was left alone in the desert and hasn’t been seen since. He has not made contact with his family in the U.S. He is presumed to be dead.

Andres’s sisters contacted the Tucson Samaritans on Dec. 20 searching for some closure on their brother — asking the Tucson Samaritans to look for Andres’s remains. The three sisters got in contact with Andres’s companion, Christo, who had been deported. He informed them of the general location where he last saw Andres, but he had no real coordinates to work with. He could only tell us what he remembered and what he was told, which was not much.

‘There are so many remains in the desert, I suppose it will be sometime until we find Andres.’

In this month long search, the Tucson Samaritans have found three remains, but none were identified as Andres. There are so many remains in the desert, I suppose it will be sometime until we find Andres.

On our walk, we looked down this wash, where a lot of materials usually congregate after it rains. Migrants use washes occasionally, too, because they are on lower ground than the flat, higher elevation desert.

We didn’t find Andres that day; but we did come across two old migrant camps that had bottles, wrappers, cans and clothing scattered about. The amount of refuse is a key indication that an area had been used as a migrant camp.

On our walk, we found the ID of a 19-year-old boy named Samuel Baez Bejarano from Sinoloa, Mexico.

Also, we found a Spanish Bible that was once owned by Laura which had certain passages highlighted. Below is a passage from the page it was bookmarked at when we found it:

     “Show me, Oh Jehovah, your path
     Teach me this path
     Walk with me and guide me in your truth
     Because you are the god of my salvation and I have hope in you all day”.

We also found a handwritten map of the area where we hiked in a backpack. At the top, it said, “camino,” which means trail and indicates the different roads and mountains in the area.

This map indicates a specific set of mountains called, “the Boboquivari’s” which migrants keep on their left hand side to head north towards Tucson. On the other side of these mountains is the Tohono O’odham nation, which is a place the Tucson Samaritans can not go to provide humanitarian aid.

Emily Rodden is a third-year student majoring in anthropology. ER861398@wcupa.edu

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