In the month of March, No More Deaths ramps up its volunteer program to accept fifty-plus visiting volunteers for spring break. This is ten times the number we usually accept in any given month.
This year, though we again accepted over fifty volunteers into the program, we ended up with only twenty-nine in attendance—almost a 50 percent attrition rate. The majority of people who did not participate cited the prosecutions of No More Deaths volunteers as the reason why they had to drop out. This is state repression in action. Half as many volunteers means half as much water put in the desert. So the prosecution of humanitarian-aid workers, regardless of its outcome, has already had a chilling effect on the work we do.
Reduced attendance or not, the spring-break program still represents a tremendous increase in our humanitarian work in the desert. As you can imagine, it also creates more work for our coordinators and facilitator teams. We do it because we believe it is so important that people across the country get a chance to come to the Sonoran Desert and witness firsthand the crisis of death and disappearance in the borderlands. The stories these volunteers bring home have the power to ripple out and change hearts and minds across the nation. This year’s spring-break volunteers came from Illinois, Arizona, Washington, Virginia, Massachusetts, Colorado, Idaho, North Carolina, California, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Washington, D.C.