The Tucson Samaritans: Background information when reading Jumping at Shadows

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Jumping at Shadows

The Triumph of Fear and the End of the American Dream

by Sasha Abramsky

Jumping at Shadows by Sasha Abramsky X
Jumping at Shadows by Sasha Abramsky
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    Sep 2017, 336 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Cynthia C. Scott
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About this Book

The Tucson Samaritans

This article relates to Jumping at Shadows

Print Review

"I feel sorrow. Anger. And sometimes a little desperation," says Maria Ochoa, one of the people Sasha Abramsky interviews in his book, Jumping at Shadows. As a member of the Tucson Samaritans, a humanitarian group which aids migrants who cross the borders through the Arizona desert, she has reason to be. For more than a decade, she has provided water, food, and medical assistance to border crossers and recovered the bodies of those who didn't make it. Working with the remains of a woman who died in the desert was particularly emotional for her. "We went out to have a service for her, two weeks after they'd picked up her body. And the spot where she'd laid, the outline of her body was still there..."

Yet Ochoa, who is one of many volunteers in the organization, continues to venture into the desert. As immigration reform becomes more elusive, the situation has become more desperate as migrants brave the unforgiving desert to escape poverty and crime in Mexico and Central America.

Mexico has experienced ups and downs in its economy for decades, which has directly or indirectly lead to a spike in immigration to the United States. In addition, political and economic challenges in South America have contributed to migrants from those countries crossing to the US through Mexico.

Tragically, far too many who attempt to cross the border don't succeed. Thousands of men, women, and children have died from dehydration, heat stroke, and hypothermia. Rather than address the humanitarian crisis, the U.S. local and federal governments instead created more onerous immigration policies. Anti-immigration militia groups have also cropped up with a mission to track and hunt migrants as they crossed into the United States.

Tucson Samaritans out in the Sonoran desert Founded in 2002 by John Fife, a pastor from the Tucson area and a prominent human rights activist since the 1980s, Tucson Samaritans addresses the mounting crisis by offering assistance to the migrants. Affiliated with the Southside Presbyterian Church, an institution in Tucson that is a member of the Sanctuary Movement and dedicated to social justice, the Samaritans are guided by a moral and spiritual resistance against what they believe are the forces of militarization, conquest, and exploitation. As Fife states: "There's never been substantive social change without resistance movements." Since its founding, the organization has grown to include over a thousand volunteers.

Legally, they are not allowed to help illegal migrants cross the border into the United States. After alerting Border Patrol, volunteers stay with the travelers to make sure they get the proper medical attention and ensure their rights are protected. Beyond reactive measures, Tucson Samaritans are also focused on the larger picture by advocating for more humane border policies and immigration reform.

Editor's note: Check out the Beyond the Book for Lucky Boy for a group doing similar work.

Picture of Samaritans from Tucson Samaritans

Filed under Places, Cultures & Identities

Article by Cynthia C. Scott

This article relates to Jumping at Shadows. It first ran in the September 6, 2017 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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