TUCSON, Arizona – Members of the Arizona Coalition for Migrant Rights met on Saturday in Tucson to paint and decorate 147 wooden crosses to commemorate every undocumented immigrant who died during fiscal year 2017 in the Arizona desert.
“The situation in the Arizona desert is of great concern. Though the federal government tells us the arrests of undocumented immigrants have diminished, we see that the deaths continue,” Marla Pacheco, a member of the Tucson-based coalition, told EFE.
According to figures of the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner in southern Arizona, between Oct. 1, 2016, and Sept. 30, 2017, 147 human remains have been found in the desert that extends along the state’s southern border, of which only 25 have been identified.
So it was that in Saturday’s ceremony, on 122 of the decorated crosses the word “unknown” appeared where a name would normally be inscribed.
The deceased immigrants were men and women between the ages of 21 and 49, according to Pima County, which is still lacking the corresponding Border Patrol records for fiscal year 2017.
This is the 17th year that the Coalition for Migrant Rights has held this ceremony in honor of the deceased, and since it began it has made 3,100 crosses.
“These are only the human remains that were found. The truth is that nobody knows exactly how many people have died in the Arizona desert and whose remains have never been found,” Pacheco said.
He estimated that the immigration policy of the Donald Trump Administration, based on heightened militarization of the border, building a wall and more deportations, might well increase the number of deaths among the dunes.
The wooden crosses will be present next Nov. 2 in a pilgrimage through the streets of Tucson.