NOTE: This blog entry originally appeared in August of 2008.
by Chad Campbell, senior producer
Way back in January of 2006, Bob, our technical producer/recording engineer Geoffrey Redick and myself traveled to the southwest to gather tape for a documentary on illegal immigration and border issues. On consecutive days, we rode first with Border Patrol Agent Gustavo Soto from Tucson down to Nogales, Arizona. The second day, we rode with Michael Hyatt and Dr. Bob Cairns, two Samaritan volunteers, towards Arivaca, Arizona. We were able to witness an arrest each day, first from the Border Patrol’s perspective in downtown Nogales and then in the middle of the desert along with the volunteers who patrol the border area looking for illegal immigrants in need of water or in medical distress. Even in early January, it warms up nicely in the afternoon and the terrain in the Sonoran Desert is extremely rugged. No matter what time of year, it’s always a dangerous four-or-five day crossing on foot. These ride alongs originally aired on XM back in March of 2006 and kick off a week of the documentaries we’ve produced since the show started on October 4, 2004. This material has never been on our public radio weekend show. My biggest regret on the trip was forgetting my camera for the first ride along with Border Patrol agent Soto to the border itself in Nogales, Arizona. Directly across the 20-foot metal wall was the much larger Nogales, Mexico. The sight of this wall essentially bisecting a city was very striking. (Click here for some descriptions and photos.) And then to drive a quarter of a mile along the border, away from downtown, to see the solid metal wall turn into chain link fencing, then to a few strands of barbed wire is something else entirely. I did however take plenty of pictures the next day with Samaritan volunteers Dr. Bob Cairns and Michael Hyatt. Hyatt is a volunteer driver and also a documentary photographer. In the photo below, he captured this moment of Bob, me, Geoffrey and Dr. Cairns at a Humane Borders water station. Hyatt helps maintain this and other sites that include three 55-gallon drums of water, marked by a bright blue flag atop a forty-foot pole (which appears to be coming out the top of my head).
Here’s Michael Hyatt’s photo of the unnamed migrant being taken into custody by the Border Patrol. Before we arrived, the man suffered a gash on the top of his head. It’s unclear how he was injured. One agent said he fell while being chased. The man was examined by Samaritan volunteer Dr. Bob Cairns who suggested a few stitches were needed to close the wound. Pictured below are Bob, Geoffrey, Dr. Cairns, the migrant and a Border Patrol EMT. The migrant’s 11 other traveling companions would soon join him on the idling Border Patrol bus waiting on the other side of Highway 286.
Michael Hyatt’s photos are featured in a book called “Migrant Artifacts: Magic and Loss in the Sonoran Desert.” To see more of his photos, click here.
Click here for an interactive map from the Border Patrol. We were in the Tucson sector which is the busiest in the country in terms of illegal immigrant apprehensions and drug seizures. That sector covers 262 linear miles of border between Arizona and Mexico.