The Immigration Project: 9 Days in the Desert Photo Essay

About seven years ago, I built my first blog entitled, The Immigration Project, where I posted about immigration law reform, immigration history, and journal entries. The blog has gone dark over the last couple of years, but I plan to bring  old posts here from time to time as well as post about the latest immigration reform news.

This is photo essay, first published September 26, 2011, recounts 9 days I spent volunteering as a desert aid worker with the Tucson-based, direct humanitarian aid organization, No More Deaths.  Half of the poems in my MS, Built with Safe Spaces, were inspired and informed by this volunteer project. A version of this photo essay can also be seen at 

No More Deaths is currently looking for volunteers for their Summer Program. Please consider sending an application. People with strong Spanish and/or medical training are desperately needed.

The Immigration Project: 9 Days in the Desert

First two nights with no more deaths we camped out in an old convent in Tuscon, AZ

A poster from No More Deaths’ WRR campaign against SB 1070
The before photo. So fresh and so clean and ready to go.
Day 1: The road to Arivaca, AZ
The road to Byrd Camp aka NMD’s home base
The desert in blume

Day 2: My first water drop.

The Surban with a broken frame but a working radio
Me hiking.

We left messages on the water to let the migrants know they could trust it. We also wanted to pass on some hope.

A gila monster we found dead and turned over on the road.
Day 3: Josseline’s Shrine
This marks the where the body of Josseline–a 14 year old girl traveling with her younger brother–was found by a No More Deaths volunteer after her coyote abandoned her in the desert.
Hiking among desert blossoms and underneath a blistering sun.
I love the flowers of the barrel cactus.
A breathtaking desert sunset.
Downtown Arivaca, AZ
I do believe it is hot here.

Day 4: A Migrant Trail
Me, ready to quit.
A water gallon slashed by Border Patrol. This is a common occurrence.
My Sharpie sketch of La Virgen de Guadelupe.

Montana Peak aka Hippy Mountain over looking Ruby and Ruby Lake beach.

Ruby Lake, less a lake and more a pool of green sludge, but when you haven’t showered in days, you’ll take it.
Refreshed and feeling good.
A virtual fence. These towers monitor hidden censors all over the desert that track migrants.
Day 5: We Reject Racism in Byrd Camp
A dead tarantula in camp.
A dead baby gopher snake that a team of ants carried under a fellow volunteers tent.

A shrine to the migrants.

Welcoming and kind instructions for migrants.

The newbies looking good in front of the Frankentent and water supply.
Day 6: Morning glory.
It’s hot and dry.
Desert life aka an ant hole
A destroyed and abandoned car in the middle of nowhere

Feeling good after the “Oak Tree” water drop and hiking into a canyon
The view
A live tarantula. They tend to come out at dusk.

Day 7: Dead Man’s Pass and a view of the Baboquivaris mountain range looking south.

Border Patrol are notorious for slashing water in Dead Man’s
Attempting to look rugged in DM or “Gumdrop Valley”

The view of the east. It’s hard not to look out and wonder who is out there, who is in need?

The port of entry at Sasabe, AZ
“The Wall”

Sleepy Sasabe

Day 8: A Desert Home

Day 9: a rainbow over my tent
Saying farewell to the desert and some fellow volunteers

One last photo to remember the violence and death that is occurring right now in our country, under our watch. Border Patrol slashed this gallon and countless others, very well knowing that people are dying from heat exhaustion and dehydration. Illegally crossing borders is not punishable by death and humanitarian aid is never a crime. No matter what your stance on immigration, let’s remember that people are dying, and their only crime is dreaming of a better life for themselves and their families.For more on Border Patrol abuses please check out A Culture of Cruelty–the extensive NMD report documenting thousands of abuses. It isn’t a few bad apples; it’s a culture.


About xochitljulisa

Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and author of Posada: Offerings of Witness and Refuge (Sundress Publications 2016). A former Steinbeck Fellow, Poets & Writers California Writers Exchange winner and Barbara Deming Memorial Fund grantee, she’s received residencies from Hedgebrook, Ragdale, National Parks Arts Foundation and Poetry Foundation. Her work is published in Acentos Review, CALYX, crazyhorse, and American Poetry Review among others. A dramatization of her poem "Our Lady of the Water Gallons," directed by Jesús Salvador Treviño, can be viewed at She is a member Miresa Collective and director of Women Who Submit.
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1 Response to The Immigration Project: 9 Days in the Desert Photo Essay

  1. Pingback: Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo | Canopy

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