TUCSON, Ariz. – Reacting in anger and horror to the mounting number of deaths on the Arizona-Mexico border, about 100 demonstrators turned out for a protest at the Federal Building July 23 organized by La Coalición de Derechos Humanos/Alianza Indígena Sin Fronteras.

The Tucson sector of the border now accounts for more than half of all immigrant deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border. Since the beginning of July, deaths in this sector have averaged more than two per day, making this the deadliest July and deadliest year ever for immigrants. The death toll for the Tucson sector has already reached 120 for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, and the summer, with desert temperatures often surpassing 110 degrees in the shade, is only half over.

Immigrant rights advocate Isabel Garcia explained that the death toll omits migrants who die on the Mexican side of the border, migrants whose remains are never found, and migrants whose remains are found years later.

Garcia condemned the attempt to blame smugglers for the deaths. She made it clear that the blame must be laid directly to U.S. government border policy, and that smugglers are just small players who try to cash in on the desperation of Mexican workers and farmers who are losing their means of livelihood due to NAFTA and U.S. trade policies.

The coalition demanded that the Bush administration “immediately end the military strategy of sealing the borders, specifically, Operation Gatekeeper, Hold the Line, Safeguard, and Rio Grande; begin immediate dialogue with Mexico with the purpose of implementing a comprehensive legalization program, creating a safe and secure border without militarization, separating the war on terrorism from immigration policies, and renegotiating NAFTA, specifically addressing the provisions that are causing the mass displacement of agricultural communities; and acknowledge the long and profound historic relationships among our communities at the border.”

Participants passers-by were encouraged to contact their congressional representatives and let them know loud and clear: “End the deaths now! Stop the militarization of our borders now! Enact a just legalization program now!”

The coalition can be reached by calling Jose Matus at (520) 770-1373.

The author can be reached at stelnik@webtv.net