Scam alert: read fine print before paying for immigration aid or government forms

Recently, the blog received a cheery request to post a link to a site that promised help with immigration paperwork. The site looks official and trustworthy, both in the name of the site. It even comes up first in a google search on immigration forms.

The site does disclose that the forms can be downloaded for free from the government and that the government may charge additional fees. So what does this site offer? They say that they will make your application easy and error free.


Si usted cree que se abandonó alguien el el desierto, contactar Colibri Center inmediatamente. Haga clic aquí y aquí por más recursos. ATTENTION
If you think someone has been left in the desert, contact Colibri Center immediately. Then click here and here for more missing persons resources.

MFM blog update: More reported missing

Manuel Cortez Rodriguez was born in Moroleon Guanajuato, Mexico and he was 31-years-old when he contacted his family on November 3, 2011. Rodriguez was planning on crossing the U.S.-Mexico border very soon somewhere between the states of Arizona and Sonora. November came and went without either his arrival or any further communication. So did the months that followed. Today Rodriguez’s family is still trying to find out what happened.

Hiking with Samaritans, part 3

This is the last of a three part series on hiking in southern Arizona with humanitarian volunteers: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 & photo gallery

The sun is emerging more frequently as we start take the left branch and begin the last stretch before we reach the border. There is no question that this trail is in use. There are signs of passing people everywhere, some old like a cloth shirt deteriorating into the debris in the stream bed but others fresh like a brightly colored Mexican toilet paper wrapper resting in the grass. The feet that trod these trails both leave and return to family. Migrants seeking jobs may be hoping to pay for anything from food and shelter to housing and medical care.

Hiking with Samaritans, part 2

This is the second of a three part series on hiking in southern Arizona with humanitarian volunteers: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 & photo gallery

There’s wildflowers everywhere. Tiny, low blue blossoms blanket the ground with taller, springier pink trumpets erupting at intervals in clumps. More infrequently there are also lacy white blooms and occasionally a burst of yellow or fiery flowers. But I’m still wearing all my layers. About 10 minutes in we come to a cache of water jugs.

Hiking with Samaritans, part 1

This is the first of a three part series on hiking in southern Arizona with humanitarian volunteers: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 & photo gallery

A few days before I was scheduled to hike with Samaritans, I walked into the parking lot and winced – not just because the heat was hitting me at that moment but because I knew that hiking in this heat with only limited shade would be even worse. But the desert in Arizona is far from predictable. I woke up that Saturday shivering and piled on the layers before starting the drive south. The car shook in winds that swept the highway before we even left Phoenix and the digital bulletin boards warned of possible haboob conditions on the I10. I shuddered, remembering coverage of an accident caused by haboob conditions near Picaco Peak in September 2011.

Filing the report

It’s been awhile since I’ve heard from Eddie. His latest call, just before the end of March, is unexpected but follow-up on my part is probably overdue. There’s no new information about Andy. Instead Eddie has called to give me report numbers. Eddie’s wife has filed a missing persons report with NAMUS, a national missing persons database.

Samaritan Training

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If you run into trouble or out of water in the desert, finding help may be essential to your survival. From local police and sheriff’s departments to elite Border Patrol units, law enforcement in southern Arizona regularly rescues migrants who’ve gotten injured or ill, as well as recreational hikers, hunters and off roaders. But many people, especially migrants, can’t call for help when they most need it. Cell phone reception is weak and patchy, and some pollers demand that migrants leave their cell phones behind before crossing the border, if they even had cell phones to begin with. Many are also afraid of any contact with law enforcement.

Meeting the Desert in Arizona

Before moving to Arizona in 2009, I had only briefly been in desert conditions, a few winter days in the Negev that included the view from Masada towards the Dead Sea, all dunes and crags and distance. Driving south from Phoenix for the first time, I was confused – I looked for sand but saw scrub. From the highway, I was looking at a landscape full of plants. The trip could be made in two hours and I was told that crossing points in Nogales were only an hour further. The temperature dropped as we rose in elevation.

Faces in the News: what they tell us about reporting and about the border

You may be wondering why I’m spending so much time to tell you about individual stories like Eddie and Andy. Since I expect personal stories to come up a lot here, let’s go ahead and talk about it. Journalism is strongest when it tells about an issue or event through people. People who were there, people who made it happen, people who were affected – their information, stories, images and voices are known in academic research as primary sources. A reporter who ties stories together and shows you the people they met creates a much more engaging experience than one who sits in front of you and tells you about the people that he, and he alone, spoke with.