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Tuesday, June 20, 2017


by Buff Whitman-Bradley

PHOENIX — The Border Patrol raided a humanitarian aid group’s base camp in the Southern Arizona desert on Thursday and arrested four men who had crossed into the United States illegally, officials with Customs and Border Protection said. Volunteers with the group, No More Deaths, which gives water and first-aid care to migrants, said the men were from Mexico and were receiving emergency medical care at the camp, which had been raided by agents in the past. But this was the first time border agents had used a search warrant to gain entry, the group said in a statement, suggesting a change in strategy by the Border Patrol leadership in the region at a time when temperatures are soaring. Despite a history of tense relations with No More Deaths, the agency had previously abided by an informal, Obama-era agreement allowing migrants to seek medical help at the camp without fear of arrest. In an interview on Friday, the group’s founder, John Fife, characterized the raid as “clearly a strategy by the border agents to cripple and even make moot the lifesaving mission of a medical facility they had agreed to respect.” His fear, he said, is that word would get out among migrants seeking help that the No More Deaths camp is no longer safe, because of border agents’ attention on it. Several volunteer groups leave jugs of water and canned food for migrants and provide them with medical aid, but No More Deaths is one of the largest and the only one in Arizona with a permanent base in the desert. —The New York Times, June 16, 2017. Photo by No Mas Muertes.

to the humanitarian volunteers of No Mas Muertes

When the large histories are written
Of this place and time
May it be recorded in a footnote
In some tome
That our government recently sent
Its not-so-secret police
To destroy an encampment
Of people of good will
Offering water and medical help
To parched migrants
Completing a brutal desert crossing
In order to enter our country
Seeking a better life.
May it be noted
That those migrants were escaping
Bitter poverty
Political violence
Repressive regimes
Destruction of their lands
Supported by
The political and economic policies
Of our own country
Its corporations
Its clandestine agents.
May it be noted
That 30 armed officers
Of the not-so-secret police
Protected the security of our nation
Using 15 trucks, two all-terrain vehicles
And a helicopter
To arrest four migrants receiving medical care.
And may it be noted
That the humanitarian workers present
To assist the migrants
Had been providing such aid for many years
That even as our country
Spiraled deeper and deeper into a vortex
Of racism and xenophobia
There were those among us
Who still believed in providing water
For whoever was thirsty.

Volunteers with the aid group “No More Deaths” distributed water along desert migrant paths in 2013. Credit Josh Haner/The New York Times.

Buff Whitman-Bradley's poetry has appeared in many print and online journals, including Atlanta Review, Bryant Literary Review, Concho River Review, Crannog, december, Hawai'i Review, Pinyon, Rockhurst Review, Solstice, Third Wednesdayand others. He has published several collections of poems, most recently, To Get Our Bearings in this Wheeling World. His interviews with soldiers who refused to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan became the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. He lives in northern California with his wife Cynthia.