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INMIGRAçION TOPGRAFIA

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    A U.S. flag tethered to a family gatepost flutters in the afternoon breeze on the road between Arivaca and Amado. The Santa Clara Mountains rise up in the distance.
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    The border fence between Mexico, on the left, and the United States, on the right, stops abruptly as the Baboquivari Mountains rise out of the desert. The fence cost over one million dollars per mile. In areas where the terrain is especially harsh and dangerous to cross, the construction halts. The consequence of this is that migrants are forced into areas where human life is incredibly difficult to sustain and they die.
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    The border fence between Mexico, above, and the United States, below, stops abruptly as the Baboquivari Mountains rise out of the desert near the hard scrabble town of Sasabe that straddles the border in southern Arizona.
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    The border fence between Mexico, above, and the United States, below, snakes its way through the once prosperous town of Nogales, which straddles the border.
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    Nogales was a town where Americans and Mexicans would visit frequently to trade goods and engage in commerce. Now businesses struggle and the value of real estate has dropped forcing many American families to live elsewhere.
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    The border fence between Mexico, above, and the United States, below, snakes it’s way through the desert scrub east of Nogales in the Pajarito Mountains in southern Arizona.
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    Three car tires used by the United States Border Patrol to "cut" the desert trail. "Cutting the trail" entails dragging car tires behind a vehicle to sweep the desert trail. This is usually done in the evening so that any migrant footprints made overnight will be visible in the morning and allow border patrol trackers to follow them through the desert.
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    Two U.S. Border Patrol vehicles are parked next to their horses on a trail in the Baboquivari Mountains in the Sonoran Desert. The border patrol use horses to patrol remote areas where their vehicles cannot pass.
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    A solitary United States Border Patrol vehicle navigates the Baboquivari Mountains in southern Arizona.
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    Two United States Border Patrol vehicles are parked on a trail in the Atascosa Mountains in the Coronado National Forest, southern Arizona.
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    A solitary United States Border Patrol vehicle patrols a portion of the Coyote Mountains Wilderness, southern Arizona.
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    A border patrol vehicle navigates the Coyote Mountains Wilderness. Migrants will normally travel in dried river beds like the one seen running from top left to bottom right of this photograph. River beds have shade and offer some cover.
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    An overturned migrant vehicle is seen in a dried river bed in the Altar Valley near Sasabe in southern Arizona. Coyotes, the name given to human and drug traffickers, pick migrants up in prearranged locations in the desert and then drive them further into Arizona and the United States. Sometimes the vehicles are seen by the United States Border Patrol who chase them through the desert. The coyotes frequently crash their poorly equipped vehicles in the dark.
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    Traces of migration like these can be seen all over the desert. The track to the north is made by vehicles, probably United States Border Patrol and local farmers, the smaller track to the south and those that branch off from it will be used by cattle and migrants.
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    The bend in the road at the center of this photograph is at Diamond Bells Ranch near Robles Junction. Diamond Bells was built as a restful and upscale desert retreat before the recent property market crash. In 2010, unbeknownst to the owner of the house, volunteers from the American charity The Samaritans found the body of a Mexican migrant who had died very slowly of dehydration and exhaustion.
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    A solar powered beacon located in the desert for migrants who are unable to continue their journey. When the beacon is activated, it sends a signal to the emergency services.
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    Coronado National Forest, close to the location where the Spanish conquistador Francisco Vasquez de Coronado led the first European migration into what is now the North American Southwest.
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    The construction of the border security fence in Nogales, Arizona. Mexico is on the right, the United States on the left. The fence costs $1,000,000 per mile. A private security detail guards the workers and prevents potential immigrants from jumping through the hole in the fence.
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    A hydraulically powered United States Border Patrol observation post hidden behind a hill very close to the border near the Santa Cruz River in the Coronado National Forest, southern Arizona.
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    A remotely operated observation post near the town of Douglas, in southern Arizona. The border has become one of the most militarized and observed borders in the world. Hi-tech industries that are developing drone and other surveillance technologies have a significant presence in the region. Border security is a self perpetuating multi-million dollar industry.
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    A portable vehicle mounted observation post at Canelo Pass in the Coronado National Forest.
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    Tire tracks of U.S. Border Patrol vehicles, Nogales, Arizona.
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    Six truck tires used by the United States Border Patrol to "cut" the desert trail, which involves dragging tires behind a vehicle to sweep the desert so that any migrant footprints made overnight will be visible in the morning.
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    Truck tires used by the United States Border Patrol to "cut" the desert trail.
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    A cross made by a volunteer from the Tucson based charity The Samaritans marks the grave of a Latin American migrant who died on the trail in the Tumacacori Mountains just west of Highway 19 and five miles from the border.
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    There are many graves and shrines like this in the Southwestern deserts. They are tended by American volunteers and migrants alike. Migrants will often forgo carrying precious life saving food and water so that they can carry candles and amulets to place on unmarked graves and shrines like this.
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    The trails are littered with clothes that the migrants discard, either because they can no longer carry them or because they have reached the end of the trail and are waiting to be collected in a vehicle by the "coyotes," who will drive them deeper into the United States.
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    Women’s underwear is sometimes found on the trails. Women are often raped and their underwear hung on trees as trophies. Some women in shelters have told volunteer workers that they take contraceptive pills on the journey to prevent rape leading to pregnancy.
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    The trails are littered with clothes that the migrants discard, either because they can no longer carry them or because they have reached the end of the trail and are waiting to be collected in a vehicle by the "coyotes," who will drive them deeper into the United States.
Inmigraçion Topgrafia

In October 2010 I was driving across the Sonora Desert in southern Arizona, following the Mexican border between Douglas and Yuma in the footsteps of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, the Spanish conquistador who crossed into what is now the United States in 1540. As I drove deeper into the desert I could see the architecture of immigration: the long border fence, the U.S. Border Patrol camps based in metal containers, the surveillance technology. I could also see traces of migration on the ground: old campfire sites and scraps of clothes on barbed wire fences. Each year hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants attempt the crossing into the U.S., risking death along the desert trails or in the mountains. After returning from the border I began work on a project that addressed the issue of immigration through the landscape.

Thanks to a friend at the University of Arizona, I found Bob Kee, who is attached to the Tucson-based NGO, The Samaritans, a church-based group of volunteers who go out at weekends to look for migrants in distress on the desert trails. I made several trips with Bob, often coming across remains and shrines – candles and coins left by migrants at the graves of those who had died during their passage. But to tell the story of migration through the landscape needed scale. I climbed the parched Baboquivari Mountains that rise out of the desert floor but I could never get high enough, or vertical enough. So Bob introduced me to Sandra Lanham, a pilot who has flown the desert for decades working for environmental agencies and NGOs on both sides of the border. With Bob in the back seat of her Cessna with his GPS we swooped over the desert looking for the trails we had walked.

From the sky we saw the barrier that Homeland Security has erected as it carves through the desert and the trails made by migrants pursued by “La Migra,” the U.S. Border Patrol. Overturned cars and patrol trucks dotted the landscape like children’s toys. Seen from above, the apparatus of border security looks more like the borders of North and South Korea or Israel and Palestine than a country at peace with its neighbours.
The steel fence cuts through four U.S. states, from the southern tip of Texas to the Pacific coast of California. At $15 million per mile, guarded by private security firms and U.S. Customs & Border Patrol, the fence has cost $1 billion dollars so far. New technologies used to track suspected terrorists and insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq are adding a further $755 million to the bill. According to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, if this border region were to be made the 51st state of the Union, it would rank last in access to health care, last in per capita income and first in the number of children living in poverty.

Back in the dirt I saw further signs of the patrol – car tires chained together and dragged behind trucks to sweep the trail at dusk so that any new tracks will be visible at dawn, emergency beacons for migrants in distress who can walk no further, water containers left by sympathetic NGOs – and more signs of human passage: discarded clothing, blankets migrants use to wrap the soles of their shoes to cover their tracks and more shrines to the dead.

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, CBP, the number of illegal migrants apprehended at the Mexican border has fallen dramatically in recent years, from 858,638 in 2007 to 327,577 in 2011, a drop of almost 62 percent. There are now 22,000 Border Patrol Agents (their numbers were doubled in 2005) who work alongside the Army, the National Guard, Homeland Security and local law enforcement agencies. Local vigilantes and militias join them at weekends. The CBP also employs six 10,000 pound Predator drones, at $20 million each, manufactured by General Atomics, identical – except that they are unarmed – to those used in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. These fly between Yuma, Arizona and Brownsville, Texas at $3,000 per hour. Equipped with day and night vision technology and as silent as paper darts, some argue that they are about as effective: in 2011 nine drones deployed all over the USA found only five percent of the drugs that were found by 14 cheaper manned aircraft.

In their desperate attempts to evade the drones or land-based thermal imaging technology, the migrants are forced to skirt the steel fence and watchtowers and cross the harshest mountainous desert terrain where the fence is too expensive to build. They die horrible deaths on remote trails and deer paths, paths that overlook new settlements with names like Desert Bell populated by second-generation migrants from Europe. This is a landscape in which humans are scorched into the desert sand like dead livestock, and where thousands of women and girls have been raped, the privilege of young men called Coyotes who peddle humans unimpeded by fear of justice.

But although the number of illegal migrants caught crossing the border has fallen, the number of migrants found dead has not. In 2011 the CPB recorded 368 dead compared to 398 in 2007, a five-year average of 386 per year. According to local border organizations such as the Samaritans, as the crossing has become more difficult, the number of migrant deaths is rising. We can never know with any accuracy how many people succeed in the crossing, or how many die in the attempt. In both cases they disappear into the landscape.

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