More than eleven million undocumented immigrants live in the United States, three times as many as in 1990. Hundreds of thousands cross the border without authorization each year, a journey that is brutal and life-threatening for many. The increased militarization and fortification of the U.S. - Mexico Border has had the often deadly consequence of shifting unauthorized border crossings into increasingly dangerous mountain and desert areas, with the Tucson, Arizona sector becoming the busiest area for border crossings.
Since the beginning of 2010 more than 150 people suspected of being undocumented migrants have been found dead, according to the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office (NYT, 7/28/210). Data show that the annual number of border crossing deaths increased from 241 in 1999, to 472 in 2005 (GAO Report, 2006).
Another unintended consequence of increased border fortification in urban areas has been the growth of an increasingly sophisticated “coyote” system of human smuggling, as migrants now typically must pay a smuggler $1500 to $3000 to help them cross.
The stories of the 11.8 million people who live in the border region and the hundreds of thousands who pass through or come to settle there each year often go unheard. Voices From the Border is a video-based multimedia web project, directed by Professors Carolyn Brown and Larry Engel, of the School of Communication. It profiles the Arizona border town of Naco, with video interviews and still pictures to create a multimedia archive of oral histories, giving voice to the individuals from the border region.
The goal of this project is to reveal and document, in depth, what life is like for those living on the border, through ethnographic immersion and observation, and journalistic reporting. By telling these stories intimately and honestly, we can, in turn, provide a unique perspective on the issues surrounding the immigration debate and the communities that are most impacted by immigration policy.