Humanitarian Aid in the Desert

Last spring a group of parishioners from the Basilica met with Jim Marx to hear about his work on the desert migrant trails.  Jim and his wife, Maureen, are part of No More Deaths, an entirely volunteer organization founded in 2004 to respond “to a crisis of migrant deaths in the Arizona borderlands . . . as a result of government policies pushing migrants into the most dangerous and remote areas of the border.” 

On their first foray into the desert, they found a man who was so dehydrated that they could not give him water.  Jim said at the sight of the man’s condition, he began to cry.  They alerted Border Patrol about a medical emergency and could only pray they took him to a hospital.   Since 2000 there have been 3,000 recorded deaths in the Sonora desert.

It is almost impossible to cross the desert alone.  On the Mexican side the land is controlled by the drug cartels and migrants have to pay to cross their lands.  Jim said Border Patrol helicopters have been seen deliberately “dusting” groups of migrants to scatter and disorient them.  Once separated from their group and on their own, the migrants have little chance of survival. 

No More Deaths provides water, food and medical aid on private land near Arivaca, Arizona.  Unfortunately, it can be frustrating work as water bottles are regularly slashed and food left in the desert by volunteers is often destroyed.

In addition to their work in the desert, No More Deaths works with individuals on the Mexican side who have been deported.    When our Basilica group visited El Comedor (The Dining Room), a volunteer doctor was there ministering to a mother who was ill while one of our group members held the woman’s baby.  They also convert checks from the detention centers into pesos, because the checks cannot be cashed in Mexico.  Finally, they provide phones so the individuals who have been deported, can contact family.

To learn more about the organization’s work, please go to and follow them on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.   


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