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Arizona artist honors migrants who died in desert crossings

Despite efforts to curb illegal immigration to the U.S., the number of migrants risking their lives crossing remote and treacherous terrain continues, often at a deadly cost. In Arizona, more than 3,000 human remains have been found over the past 20 years,and many of them are unidentified. But one local artist has made it his mission to honor those who have died. Arizona Public Media has the story.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Despite efforts to curb illegal immigration to the U.S., the number of migrants risking their lives crossing remote and treacherous terrain continues often at a deadly cost. In southern Arizona, more than 3,000 human remains have been found over the past two decades. Many of them are unidentified. But one local artist has made it his mission to honor the lives of the migrants who've died in the Sonoran Desert. Arizona Public Media brings us the story of artist Alvaro Enciso who marks those deadly crossings with crosses.

  • Alvero Enciso:

    When I moved here, I immediately wanted to connect to the people who were putting the word out in the desert.

    And I saw the mass of red dots almost covering the geographical detail of the map. I knew right then and there I needed to take the red dot to where the tragedy occurred.

    Every time they collect a body they put a G.P.S. Marking where the person was found. So the night before I look at how am I gonna get there, how far are we gonna have to walk and be prepared for it.

    The ultimate goal is to get to the location. One way or another.

    We try to put four crosses every time we go. The red dot mark a location and we operate in an area that is 40,000 square miles.

    I get an e-mail from a woman whose brother died here and she says could you put a cross from my brother.

  • Correspondent:

    When did he die, I wonder?

  • Alvero Enciso:

    2013. I have a friend who's my G.P.S. person who's able to guide us to the exact location.

  • Correspondent:

    Well it looks like there might be a couple of ways to connect to it but the one I think is.

  • Alvero Enciso:

    Sometimes you have to find.

  • Correspondent:

    Three miles.

  • Alvero Enciso:

    Roads that the map doesn't even show.

    Most of the migrants who died out in the desert were off the trail. They were left behind. They got lost, disoriented and they ended up walking in circles until they ran out of water and died.

    It's a tragedy that has a lot of ramifications. There's a void in that family.

    I'm walking along with them. I'm walking the same ground. I'm feeling the same heat.

  • Man:

    Three feet it's okay with me. Do you have a name?

  • Man:

    Unidentified, undetermined skeletal remains, April 13, 2018.

  • Alvero Enciso:

    Half the time we don't have the names of the person and those cases affect me the most. Because there's no closure for the family. That family still hoping that one day this person is gonna make a phone call and say hey, I'm here. We know that that's not gonna happen. And that breaks my heart.

    Is it like a little oasis here so people already got here, looking for shade and a little cool and just couldn't get up.

    I knew that this causes weren't going to be seen by anybody. The families of those people never get to see them but every now and then something magical happens. The family came all the way from New Jersey, her two daughters and her husband and we went together and put a cause for them.

  • Woman:

    She was trying to help as much as possible. She inspired so many people like family members or anyone that needed help.

  • Alvero Enciso:

    I don't have enough life in me to finish it. So it's gonna be an incomplete project but I'm okay with that because little by little the truth is coming out.

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