Pima Supes split on support for Humane Borders water stations
The Pima County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday narrowly continued its long-standing support of Humane Borders, voting 3-2 to approve $30,000 for migrant water stations.
Humane Borders is a Tucson-based nonprofit of mostly volunteers founded in 2000, and focused on establishing and maintaining water stations for migrants crossing the desert.
Pima County began allocating funds to the group in 2001, with $25,000 from the board's office budget. A spokesman said the county's support predated the 2001 allocation, which then-board chair Raúl Grijalva placed on the June 5, 2001, agenda. The motion saw 10 people speaking in favor of the allocation and three in opposition.
During Tuesday's call to the audience, Humane Borders board chair Dora Rodriguez told supervisors the water stations are a personal mission. She was among a 26-person group of migrants in July 1980 that resulted in 13 deaths in the Southern Arizona desert.
Humane Borders board member Dinah Bear thanked the board for its long-term support.
"I want to make it really clear that our ethics from the very start was to follow all laws, all rules and regulations — federal, state and local," she said. "We do not encourage or facilitate people crossing the border. We do not transport people. All we do is put out legally permitted — literally permitted — water. And when we have opportunities, we have actively discouraged people from crossing the border because we know it is dangerous."
The Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner's 2021 Annual Report stated the office received 3,483 recovered suspected "Undocumented Border Crosser" remains since 2000. The ME's office reported 215 UBC remains recovered in 2020, and another 215 in 2021.
Supervisors Sharon Bronson and Steve Christy voted against the $30,000 allocation from the county's General Fund.
"I have supported them in the past when this journey began in 2001, and I'm sure this is going to pass, but this is 20 years, two decades of failed policy from Washington, D.C.," Bronson said.
During the 2001 board vote, Bronson stated, "this is a failed responsibility the Federal Government is not meeting," before amending the motion to include a Health Department public health emergency declaration in the desert regions in Pima County's southern borders. She also wanted a State of Emergency declaration at the state and federal level with emergency funding for the water stations, adding funds should be established to reimburse local hospitals for providing health care.
On Tuesday, Bronson noted that immigration policy had been a failure from President George H.W. Bush's administration in the early 1990s through President Joe Biden's current administration.
"I'm just not going to be an enabler anymore. And I appreciate the words that all of them spoke," Bronson said of Humane Borders representatives and a supporter's comments during the call to the audience. "I have always supported this, but enough is enough — I'm not going to be an enabler."
Board chair Adelita Grijalva noted the representatives' comments as the reason for her support.
"I think that you said it much more eloquently than I could — that violating, crossing a border does not at any time, even if you are convicted, is not a death sentence," she said.
Bronson agreed with Grijalva, but she added that "comprehensive immigration reform" was needed but not coming. Bronson said the Humane Borders item on the agenda wouldn't solve the problem.
"Right, but it will, hopefully, prevent deaths," Grijalva said.
This article originally appeared in the Green Valley News.