About CPT Borderlands

“when a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do (the stranger) wrong. The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love (the stranger) as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

Leviticus 19:33-34

CPT's Borderlands project is suspended while we work toward sufficient staffing needed to continue.

We continue to organize periodic Borderlands delegations - join one!  Contact delegations@cpt.org for more information.


CPT Borderlands (2004-2007):

  • Partnered with local groups along the US/Mexico border, including the No More Deaths Coalition, Frontera de Cristo, Healing our Borders, and many other groups that reject a militarized border that divides communities and brings death to the desserts in unprecedented numbers.
  • Demonstrated that is it never illegal to provide medical assistance and give food and water to those who are hungry and thirsty, regardless of nationality or legal status.
  • Monitored the activities and vigilante groups and Border Patrol treatment of migrants
  • Documented the role of private contractors along the border
  • Was involved in national advocacy efforts that promoted a humane, sustainable immigration policy that reunites families, offers a path to citizenship and is not punitive in nature.

Every summer in southern Arizona, 200-350 migrants lose their lives as they attempt to cross the Arizona/Sonora border region. Many thousands of men, women, and children have lost their lives attempting to cross the US/Mexico border.

In 2004, No More Deaths invited CPT to place a team near Douglas, Arizona to lead one of several No More Deaths desert emergency assistance camps and to establish contacts with area activists, churches, Border Patrol, ranchers and vigilante groups.

Douglas, AZ, has a long history of vigilante violence, and has been the home of many vigilante groups including Arizona Guard, Ranch Rescue, American Border Patrol, and the Minutemen Project. Some of these groups have been investigated and found guilty of civil rights violations when acting violently towards people of Hispanic/Indigenous origin.

Douglas residents refer to the area as "a militarized zone" where constitutional rights may not apply to residents. While most Border Patrol agents act professionally, residents have reported instances of Border Patrol agents marching people down the road at gunpoint. Statements by Border Patrol and US Attorney officials threatening prosecution for any assistance to migrants has created a climate of fear and corruption which causes people to fear lodging complaints. In addition, vigilante groups lease land adjoining the border west of Douglas and have beaten migrants and held people at gunpoint.

CPT worked to demonstrate that is it never illegal to provide medical assistance and give food and water to those who are hungry and thirsty, regardless of nationality or legal status.

In addition to monitoring the activities of the US Border Patrol and vigilante groups, CPT explored the the role of private contractors along the border including Wackenhut's role in the transportation of processed undocumented migrants back to Mexico. 


Additional Context

The Sonora Borderland is one ecological region, now divided by an arbitrary line in the desert. It is united by geography and climate, and a human culture adapted to the climate; it is divided by an international boundary 160 years old, which is today experienced most dramatically as an economic fault line, and a militarized "Iron Curtain" US border policy that maintains that economic dislocation.

Migration and Hospitality
The human culture of the desert is characterized by traditions of migration and hospitality. With the historical unity of the region and migration patterns, families typically live on both sides of today's border. Up until two decades ago, crossing was easy and frequent for both US and Mexican Sonorans. In the desert, hospitality for the traveler is a matter of life or death and therefore, a moral obligation. The pilgrim who is out of water is only hours from dying.

Economic Pressure
The huge inequality of job/earning opportunities on the two sides of the border results in tremendous pressure for labor to come north. This is in addition to traditional seasonal labor migration patterns, and to the normal migration patterns of the Sonoran borderland region. Recent US economic policies that are based on maintaining a pool of cheap labor in Mexico do so by blocking these traditional migration patterns. Current US border policy shows a stark contrast between the application of "free-market" principles to goods and investment but not to labor. The US is "lowering the barriers" for money and goods to cross while "sealing the border" to people.

Militarized Border
The US border has been dramatically militarized, and all of the most convenient crossing points are now closed and guarded. Fences, sensors, cameras and a ten-fold Border Patrol troop increase have effectively sealed the border near major border towns, leaving only the open desert, where hundreds of thousands make the several-day trek each year to cross from Mexico to the US. In 2006, over two hundred people died in Arizona making the journey -- that number has increased year after year, in spite of the best efforts of a number of migrant advocacy groups (and the claim of the Border Patrol that they are working for the safety of the migrants). There are no provisions for seeking legal entrance into the United States for the majority of Mexicans. Only those with access to significant financial resources or professional skills are given the right to work and live in the US. After making this undocumented journey there is currently no way for a migrant to make their presence legal after entering the US.

Humanitarian Obligation
U.S. statutes penalize "furthering the illegal entry or presence" of migrants. Persons suspected of doing so can have their vehicle seized or house confiscated. Penalties may involve years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. The Samaritans, part of the NO MORE DEATHS coalition, explain: "We never further the entry of anyone, they are already here. Giving water, food, or medical assistance is a humanitarian obligation. Transport from open desert to a safe place for recovery is the only responsible thing to do." Churches have been traditionally recognized as a place of sanctuary for the oppressed and marginalized. For this reason, it is important to locate migrant centers, and churches that can provide sanctuary for undocumented migrants in the United States, both along the border and in the interior.