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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Water in desert doesn’t solve larger issues

A Tucson-based humanitarian group called No More Deaths has taken a great deal of fire for its practice of leaving behind water jugs in arid lands that are notorious for being flooded by illegal immigrants.

Many opponents have accused the group of encouraging illegal immigration, saying the organization ought to be punished. The New York Times has reported several of the group’s members being charged with littering the otherwise wide-open desert area. While most members have been acquitted of the charges brought against them, the inconveniences of being arrested and hiring an attorney to fight the case are there nonetheless.

No More Deaths defends its stance on leaving water jugs behind because the water is left for anyone who passes through the desert, whether it is an illegal immigrant or a law enforcement official. A member of the group has echoed this sentiment, saying, “”We’d give water to anyone we found in the desert, even the border patrol.””

On the surface, what No More Deaths is doing does seem to at least support those crossing the borders illegally in their efforts. Some claim that by providing water jugs, No More Deaths is encouraging the illegal passage. In response to that claim, a member of the Sierra Club correctly cites increased border control as the reason more people are choosing to venture through the desert for passage to the U.S. Those crossing the border are desperate individuals who venture into the desert with the intention of finding a better life; whether there is water there or not is irrelevant to them. So, blaming No More Deaths for the increase in immigrants passing through desert regions is incorrect.

In regard to legality, however, there is some concern. The No More Deaths water jugs are aiding illegal immigrants, and thus aiding criminals. Whether or not you sympathize with illegal immigration, you must recognize that in pure legal terms this organization is aiding someone who is breaking the law. No More Deaths can pretend that the jugs are for whomever, but let’s face it; a border enforcement official isn’t going to be dying of thirst when they can simply drive their vehicle back to wherever they may be stationed.

What ought to be done instead of leaving water in the desert is increasing production of rescue beacons like those created by border patrol. These beacons allow immigrants to send out a distress call. This enforces the law and allows border patrol to do a better job, while at the same time still allowing for humanitarian efforts.

There are people who will cross the border no matter what. They accept the difficulties that face them, and while it is a nice gesture to provide water to them, the reasoning just doesn’t justify the act. These individuals face the arduous task of crossing the border through illegal means, and therefore accept the risks they take. They accept that water will be in short supply and heat will be a factor. Aiding them in their venture just doesn’t add up. Yes, it’s a very kind humanitarian effort and these people shouldn’t just be left to die a painful dehydration-induced death. However, helping illegal immigrants cross the border isn’t the proper means to changing the immigration process.

If you want to make a change in policy you’re going to have to do more than help illegal immigrants with hydration. If you’re extremely opposed to illegal immigration, then you just might be all for letting the illegal immigrants die, but the simple fact is that they’re humans. Although they may be breaking the law, it is not your place to pass judgment on individuals who are obviously dreadfully desperate. It’s necessary to enforce the laws with respect to the value of a human life.

These immigrants shouldn’t be left to die out in the desert, but there need to be more appropriate means for keeping them alive. Their lives are valuable, but aiding them in their crossing is illegal nonetheless. Whether you think the immigration process should be altered or not, leaving behind water jugs isn’t helping the progress toward a better immigration system.

— Storm Byrd is a political science sophomore. He is also a student organizer for UA Votes, which is run by Arizona Students’ Association. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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