Bodily Inertia and the Weaponization of the Sonoran Desert in US Boundary Enforcement: A GIS Modeling of Migration Routes through Arizona’s Altar Valley
"Bodily Inertia and the Weaponization of the Sonoran Desert in US Boundary Enforcement: A GIS Modeling of Migration Routes through Arizona’s Altar Valley" conducts geographic information system (GIS) modeling of unauthorized migration routes in the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona and finds an increase in the ruggedness of terrain crossed by pedestrian travelers throughout time. The modeling of ruggedness incorporates multiple variables that include slope, vegetation, “jaggedness,” and ground temperature, and provides an alternative to Euclidian distance as a way of measuring and conceptualizing borderlands space. The data that informs our analysis is derived from comprehensive activity logs maintained by the humanitarian organization No More Deaths from 2012 to 2015, including 4,847 unique entries documenting the use of 27,439 gallons of clean drinking water at 512 distinct geotagged cache sites located along known pedestrian migration routes. The shift in migration routes toward more difficult terrain within this one high-traffic corridor reveals the ongoing impacts of the US Border Patrol’s strategy of “Prevention Through Deterrence.” In short, the pressures of enforcement on migration routes combine with everyday interference with humanitarian relief (No More Deaths and Coalicio´n de Derechos Humanos 2018) to maximize the physiological harm experienced by unauthorized migrants. Among other outcomes, this explains both the persistence of mortality of unauthorized migrants and an increase in the rate of mortality over time (Martı´nez et al. 2014). The article concludes with several policy recommendations for US Customs and Border Protection that include making interference and vandalism of humanitarian aid a fireable offense; the formation of a border-wide agency tasked with search-and-rescue and emergency medical response, whose mission and operations are restrained by a clear firewall between itself and those of law enforcement; and ending Prevention Through Deterrence as a nationwide strategy.
Boyce, G. A., Chambers, S. N, & Launius, S. (2019). Bodily Inertia and the Weaponization of the Sonoran Desert in US Boundary Enforcement: A GIS Modeling of Migration Routes through Arizona’s Altar Valley. Journal on Migration and Human Security, 7(1), 23-25. Available at https://doi.org/10.1177/2331502419825610