It is nearly impossible to accurately determine the number of people that die attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. One method of doing so involves counting human remains in the desert which, from October 2000 to September 2014 in southern Arizona alone, was over 2,700. The causes of death are numerous but equally horrific: succumbing to heatstroke, dehydration, heart attacks, snakebites, or falling from cliffs, just to name a few. Additionally, it is likely that there are still hundreds of more remains buried in the desert, never to be found.
Next week, Arrupe will be hosting a solidarity project entitled “Breaking Down the Border,” in which the group will be spreading awareness about the border situation. The group has worked tirelessly to prepare a thousand wooden crosses that will be placed in the Fulton/Gasson quad, symbolizing the number of deaths that occur on U.S. soil every year from border crossings. Kristen Reeves, CSON ’18, explained that the ultimate goal of the group’s project is to help BC students “learn more about the dangers of border crossing and the U.S. policies that promote migrant policy in the desert as we did in our experience at the US-Mexico border.” Last January, Reeves took part in an Arrupe trip down to the U.S. – Mexico border, in which she spent 10 days engaging in various reflections, activities, and conversations to help garner a clearer understanding of the actual situation at the border.
Reeves noted that one of the more memorable highlights of the trip was a mock desert hike her group undertook in the desert, walking through areas where migrants would travel. Obviously the circumstances were much different for them in comparison to the immigrants crossing the border, as Reeves pointed out that “we know that we’re coming back and we know where we’re going,” while the migrants are not granted such luxuries. Nontheless, the experience was still mesmerizing and moving in its own ways, as the group would find empty water bottles and articles of clothing throughout the desert, as well as various shrines cluttered with memorabilia that migrants would stop at during their journeys. Reeves and the rest of her group left behind galleon water bottles along the route, in the hopes that they might provide some means of survival to any migrants facing dehydration underneath the brutal temperatures of the desert sun.
Reeves and the rest of her Arrupe group also took the time to visit a detention center and, in groups of two or three, actually meet with the migrants detained there. “There’s no real agenda when we meet with them,” Reeves explained; “we were just there to be there for them and shoot the breeze.” Topics of discussion ranged from simple things like hobbies and sports, to the more complex and dramatic situations the detained migrants were in. Reeves and her comrades would later write up letters of recommendation for the detainees they met. It is uncertain if the letters will actually change the situations for the detained migrants, however, as Reeves argued “it can’t hurt.” They reflected on the Gospel of Matthew, in which Jesus explains the criteria for eternal judgment: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in” (Matthew 25:35).
Arrupe members also took the time to place crosses with the names of deceased migrants near the border, an activity they will now mimic somewhat this coming week on campus. Pamphlets with facts and information about the border situation will be distributed on campus as well, in the hopes that BC students will grasp a better understanding of the severity of the border crisis.