Drought, heat inflict deadly toll on migrants

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Record high temperatures and the unrelenting drought have combined to cause a record-breaking number of migrant deaths  in the Arizona desert so far this year, the Tucson SentinelOpens in a new tab. reports.

The remains of 127 migrants in the first half of 2021 were reported by Humane Borders and the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office, ahead of the 96 deaths recorded at the same point in 2020. In the year 2020, a grim record of 226 deaths was set.

Humane BordersOpens in a new tab. is a non-profit corporation “motivated by faith and the universal need for kindness.”  It maintains a system of water stations in the Sonoran Desert on routes used by migrants making the dangerous journey to the United States on foot. Its primary mission is to save desperate people from a horrible death by dehydration and exposure and to create a just and humane environment in the borderlands. The organization places its water stations on government and privately owned land with permission from the landowners.

Dehydration is a Terrible Way to Die.

Humane Borders writes about the disturbing and inhumane issues facing migrants on their treks through the Arizona desertOpens in a new tab., writing in part:

“Many migrants are unprepared for the alien landscape and find themselves on a scorching trek.

‘Often, people don’t have real shoes. Some are wearing sandals, they’re told it’s just going to be a short trip. Most people that I encounter in the desert have these terrible blisters on their feet. I don’t know how they’re walking,’ said Ruopp.

Many don’t, or cannot, carry enough water for a journey that can last days.

‘Most leave with two-gallon bottles strapped around their neck,’ said Douglas Ruopp, chair of the nonprofit. ‘That’s good for maybe a day. We find people that have been out for five or more.’

Last year was not only the hottest on record, the summer monsoon rains didn’t materialize.

Ruopp has encountered many lost and ‘delirious’, even ‘walking in a circle’ or unknowingly ‘heading south back toward Mexico.’

Dehydration ‘really affects your decision making’ and is a terrible way to die, he said.”


Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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August 6, 2021 9:08 pm
The blisters, exhaustion, delirium from lack of water and food. To say these are terrible conditions is an understatement, and to think of the children or even babies on this trip is even worse. It’s good that Humane Borders provides water, but I’d imagine that the organization can’t help everyone which is unfortunate.
Autumn Firedragon
Autumn Firedragon
August 13, 2021 2:37 pm
I’ve been down near the border and the landscape is often destitute, barren and harsh. Temperatures exceeding 100 degrees with the brutal sun and very few places for shelter. These water stations are the most humane things that I’ve heard of in a very long time. I pray they save lives. I’m tired of human suffering on a totally global level. ugh

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