Chris Hawley, Arizona Republic (Phoenix), Jan. 24, 2006
MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s human rights agency says it will give out detailed maps of the Arizona desert, including rescue beacons and water stations, to guide migrants safely through the most popular and deadliest corridor into the United States.
The maps were designed by a Tucson-based group, Humane Borders, which plans to hold a joint press conference today with the National Human Rights Commission in Mexico City to announce its strategy.
The maps are the latest effort by activists to aid undocumented immigrants as they trek across the border, helping to fuel a raging debate over illegal immigration in Arizona and other parts of the United States.
Two rights commission officials confirmed the quasi-governmental agency had agreed to print and distribute the maps through its state offices to reach Mexican migrants before they ever leave their hometowns. It has not decided how many copies to print or how much it will spend on the project, the officials told The Republic.
Last year, the Mexican government outraged border-control activists in the United States by publishing a comic book containing safety tips for illegal immigrants. Soon afterward, the southeastern state of Yucatán published its own guide containing detailed information on routes through the desert.
Arizona has become the most traveled corridor for Mexicans trying to enter the United States illegally. Border Patrol agents in Arizona caught more than 577,000 undocumented migrants, most of them Mexicans, during the 2005 fiscal year. At least 279 immigrants attempting to cross the desert died during that time.
Humane Borders has produced maps for each of the four main corridors through Arizona: Douglas, Lukeville, Sasabe and Nogales.
The maps show mountains, roads, railroads and cities. Blue flags show where migrant-aid groups have left water tanks in the desert. Blue stars indicate Border Patrol rescue beacons where migrants can push a button to summon help.
Black lines show how far a migrant can expect to get walking one, two or three days.
The effort is supported by Pima County, partly as an attempt to help alleviate the expense of dealing with hundreds of corpses found in the desert, said Enrique Serna, a deputy county administrator who accompanied Hoover to Mexico.
Pima County encompasses Tucson and some 115 miles of the Arizona-Mexico border.
Arizona Rep. Jim Kolbe, a Republican, said he supports the maps as a way of saving lives. But the best way of keeping migrants from dying in the desert is by helping Mexico create jobs and reforming U.S. laws to better manage migration, he said.