Fourteen-year-old Josseline, from El Salvador. Eighteen-year-old Bennett, from the Tohono O’odham Nation. Marco Antonio, 19, from Sonora, Mexico.
These are just three of the 6,330 people who have died crossing the border into the United States since 1998.
The crisis in the borderlands often gets painted in shocking statistics, but the Colibrí Center for Human Rights reminds us that each of those numbers is someone’s beloved brother, cherished child, wife, father, or friend.
On Dia de los Muertos, November 2, Colibrí launched its #EndMigrantDeaths campaign, asking people to change their Facebook profile to someone who has died in the borderlands. These people are both American citizens and foreign nationals. Most died in the harsh desert crucible, but some – including Americans Bennett Patricio Jr. and Esequiel Hernández Jr. – were killed by Border Patrol or other U.S. agents.
“You can help us not only raise awareness of what’s happening on the border but also to honor and remember these individual, irreplaceable lives that are being lost,” says Reyna Araibi, Colibrí’s outreach coordinator.
Colibrí is collecting photos from families who’ve lost a loved one or are still searching for a missing relative. The campaign will run through Human Rights Day on December 10 and International Migrants Day on December 18, when Colibrí will release more stories about the migrants and their families. “The border gets forgotten as a human rights issue, and we really want to draw attention to that,” Araibi says.
Colibrí works on the heartbreaking front line of the immigration issue, using forensics and anthropology to identify bodies found in the Arizona desert, to search for their families, and to give them closure.
“The families that we work with are all individual, they’re all unique, they’ve all lost someone very important to them,” Araibi says. “And although the numbers and the statistics are very important for us as a country to realize the mass scale of this crisis, it’s also really fundamental that we recognize these are beautiful, cherished lives that are being lost.”
To stand in solidarity with families who have lost loved ones, share your profile picture with a migrant by visiting Colibrí’s #EndMigrantDeaths page.