This week on Live Like the World is Dying, Inmn is joined again by Sophie and Parker from No More Deaths for part two of their talk about the militarization of the US-Mexico border, search and rescue, 911 discrimination, and medical collaboration with Border Patrol.
Inmn can be found on Instagram @shadowtail.artificery
This show is published by Strangers in A Tangled Wilderness. We can be found at www.tangledwilderness.org, or on Twitter @TangledWild and Instagram @Tangled_Wilderness. You can support the show on Patreon at www.patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness.
Live Like the World is Dying: No More Deaths on the “Disappeared” Report & Border Militarization Pt. II
**Inmn ** 00:15
Hello and welcome to Live Like the World is Dying, your podcast for what feels like the end times. I’m your host Inmn and today we have part two of an interview with two folks from the abuse doc working group in No More Deaths or No Más Muertes. And we’re just going to pick up right in the middle of where we left off and talk a lot about search and rescue and the newest report from No More Deaths, "Separate & Deadly," which is mostly about 911 dispatch discrimination and medical discrimination and collaboration with Border Patrol. If you haven’t listened to part one, probably not entirely necessary but it lays a lot of important groundwork and context for what we’re going to be talking about today. So go back and give part one a listen. But before we get to that, we are a proud member of the Channel Zero Network of anarchists podcasts. And here is a jingle from another show on that network. Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo. [Singing the words like a melody]
**Inmn ** 02:14
Yeah, so it’s kind of wild to me that like, you know, Border Patrol, has these like non-responses? And it’s like, it seems like those nonresponses are on purpose, but they have every piece of technology at their disposal and like every system and like…they just have everything. And yet they purposefully don’t help find people.
**Sophie ** 02:50
Yeah, that was something we really chronicled in part three looking at their budget and just the way in which Border Patrol is absolutely a militarized enforcement agency first and foremost and 99% of their budget and personnel are dedicated to an enforcement mission, you know, that they’re kind of the search and rescue…border patrol search and rescue–so-called–wing of Border Patrol is miniscule compared in terms of staffing, and funding and so on and it’s really, you know, there to propagandize and, you know, they do take part in some of this, of course, but really looking at the way in which they are geared towards enforcement first and foremost. And we have, you know, cases of agents being asked to search for someone in south Texas and a higher up saying, "I’m not going to pull agents off of the checkpoint to go search for a person in distress," you know, so seeing those priorities play out in real time on a given case. So yeah, they have all this, you know, powerful equipment and resources, but those are really dedicated to carrying out their enforcement mission, which then compromises you know, their status as a first responder.
**Inmn ** 04:18
Yeah. And it’s like they have that like–god, what is it called–the BORSTAR helicopter that they pull out for photo shoots or something?
**Parker ** 04:27
Yeah, there’s a lot of emphasis on, you know, their high-tech capabilities of rescue. And one thing that I can’t remember if Sophie mentioned is what we found in the report, you know, when we were looking at these diminished responses and how brief some of their efforts are, is they essentially won’t do a search. You know, really in any case, they’ll do rescues that are pinpointed where they have exact coordinates. But a lot of the time, what their response will look like is going to the coordinates and if the person isn’t right there they call off the search. So what we think of is like a search where like you have a whole, you know, maybe team of people combing an area, you’re doing some investigation from like the information that you do have to try and, you know, guess where someone might be, and putting in like resources to look for someone where you don’t have their exact location but you have some information to go on. We’re not seeing those types of responses at all. So yeah, then what you see instead is these PR events where they’re like, "Look, we could rescue someone off the side of a cliff," you know, but that’s not translating to actual meaningful responses for the, you know, the situations that they’re actually being confronted with. And we definitely have a lot of cases of, you know, Border Patrol saying, you know, "Our helicopters busy right now." So helicopters are used for enforcement. You know, in the "Chase & Scatter" report, we really looked at that, at Border Patrol flying helicopters very low over people who are migrating to scatter them, intimidate them, kick up a lot of dust. It’s very intimidating and frightening for people to have a helicopter fly really low over them. And then we’re seeing these situations where they won’t respond. They won’t pull their helicopter from an enforcement mission to go search for somebody who’s lost.
**Sophie ** 06:02
And then this like, really perverse scenario in which someone who’s been chased and become lost because of the helicopter scattering them then is supposed to look to the same helicopter that put them in harm’s way to come and rescue them. I mean, it’s incredible, the notion that Border Patrol could function to respond to the search and rescue crisis in the borderlands.
**Inmn ** 06:26
Yeah, and it’s like, to put it in weird contrast, we did an episode on search and rescue specifically in a National Park, you know, from this person who does like search and rescue there. And they’re like–maybe I’m remembering this wrong and someone’s gonna be upset about that–but they’re like, "Yeah, we get a call. And then like, within an hour, we’re out and looking for people and like, usually find them very quickly." You know? And it’s like this…. It’s this other national agency with so fewer resources at their disposal. And they’re like…. Yeah, it’s like search and rescue isn’t easy, but they’re like, yeah, we find people pretty quickly because we’re professionals.
**Sophie ** 07:25
Right. We did some interviews with Pima County Search and Rescue, which we’ll talk about more, but talking with them, you know, they go out to deploy for hikers loss in the Catalinas, you know, citizens or tourists. And when they were asked, you know, what is your success rate? They’re like, "Oh, you mean in like finding someone before they’ve died? Like, preventing loss of life?" And we’re like, "No, in finding them at all." You know? And it was a confusing question, right? And they’re like, "Almost 100%. Like, what are you talking about? We’re not going to just not find someone."
**Parker ** 08:00
They’re basically just like, "Yeah, we don’t call off searches without finding someone."
**Sophie ** 08:04
Yeah, And that they really focused on preventing loss of life, like what you’re saying, getting there rapidly. And to them, a failure is finding the person in death. But what we’re seeing is this failure to even mobilize or locate someone ever at all on the border.
**Inmn ** 08:21
Yeah, and what resources or community…. Like what do community search and rescue efforts look like? In comparison, what resources do people have available?
**Parker ** 08:37
Yeah, I mean, it varies in different areas. But here in Pima County, which is, you know, the area we’ve looked at–and Pima County is, you know, most of the area that we work and do our humanitarian aid and in southern Arizona–the sheriff’s department is in charge of search and rescue. They have a lot of resources at their disposal. They have a volunteer search and rescue team that when we were researching I think we saw that they had 150 volunteers. Some recent reports that have come out in response to our report say that they have 200 to 300 volunteers. So maybe that’s increased. But they have this volunteer organization that works directly under the sheriff’s and they’re trained. Yeah, they go out and they respond to loss hikers. The sheriff’s department, you know, they have helicopters, they have drones, and infrared cameras that they’ll use. They also have volunteer canine teams that can go out–and especially if it’s suspected that someone may have died already–the canine teams can go help locate them. They have a mounted contingent, they have a search and rescue contingent on horseback. So they have, in addition to their own search and rescue deputies, which I believe at the time that we were researching they had eight deputies in the sheriff’s department that were the search and rescue coordinators who would then activate this team of hundreds of volunteers that go out to search. And like Sophie said, when, you know, we asked about their success rate, they’re like, "We just…We find everybody," you know? Like that’s what they do. And like you were saying with the rapid response, you know, we did– and I guess we’re getting a little bit into the next report now–but we listened to 911 calls that they’re responding to from lost hikers, people who are calling and speaking English and presumed to be citizens and they usually have someone responding to the area before they’re even off their first phone call. You know, you see they have dispatchers collecting the information and then they’ve already sent somebody immediately to the location that the call is coming from.
**Inmn ** 10:39
Okay, well, it’s funny, we’ve been recording for a while now and it all feels in preparation for talking about the thing that we’re here to talk about, which is the new report, which I want to introduce the new part o "Disappeared," "Separate & Deadly."
**Parker ** 11:05
Yeah, so "Separate & Deadly" is a report that kind of directly came out of the research that we were doing for "Left To Die." I left it I really just focusing on Border Patrol and their lack of response and contrasting that with, you know, they’re sort of PR of putting themselves out there as rescuers. But in doing that research, we started to also learn more about the county and the way that the county is handling 911 calls that they receive as that first point of contact before they transfer it to Border Patrol. And that research, you know, kind of was happening simultaneously with doing the research into Border Patrol’s response. We actually at that time had heard that the ACLU was, you know, considering pursuing a 14th amendment discrimination lawsuit against the Pima County Sheriff’s Department for transferring calls to Border Patrol on the basis of people’s presumed citizenship status. And they, in considering pursuing that, had received a few audio recordings of 911 calls and shared those with us. So then we put in our own records request and requested 911 calls that they received and transferred to Border Patrol within a two year period. It’s from summer 2016 to summer 2018, we put in that records request and I think we were quite surprised by the volume of calls we got back. So that’s when we got over 2000 recordings of 911 calls that were being received by the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, their 911 system, before being transferred to Border Patrol. So we received those calls and we decided to listen to them and create data and document what we were hearing in those calls. And so that ended up feeling like it really was its own report, you know? Like we wanted a report that focused on Border Patrol. And then we wanted to really look at the local county and their complicity in their discriminatory response to people who are lost in the desert. So that’s what this report came out of. It’s been several years in the making. We wanted to, you know, release it as a follow up to "Left To Die," but really just focused on the county itself and its lack of response.
**Sophie ** 13:12
Yeah, and there’s kind of this story told about border counties in the context of Prevention Through Deterrence that, you know, Prevention Through Deterrence is this federal policy and it’s, you know, unduly burdening counties to respond to the emergencies that it’s creating. And these counties are all, you know, under-resourced and flailing to handle these emergencies and that, you know, that’s true in some counties on the border. Like if you look at Brooks County in South Texas, for example, it’s, you know, one of the poorest counties in the country. But when you look at Pima County, which is so critical, you know, there’s like 50% of all recovered remains on the border in Pima County, we see this other story that we’ve been talking about that there are robust search and rescue resources, you know, available in this county. And yet when you look at the emergency response system, what we see is this segregated system in which 911 dispatchers, when they’re receiving a call from someone they perceive to be undocumented and crossing the border, which they determine based on a number of different informal factors, they forego doing a missing persons intake as they would. They have historically foregone even assigning that call a case number. They forgo forwarding that call and any information with it to Pima County Search and Rescue and instead they just quickly transfer the call to a Border Patrol line and quickly hang up. So what we are seeing and what the ACLU is concerned with and now we’ve partnered with Center for Constitutional Rights to look at this is a segregated system and in which your perceived identity as having citizenship status or not determines whether you’ll receive County Emergency Services for search rescue response as robust or this really diminished, lesser Border Patrol response that we know based on part three results in these high rates of death and disappearance. So, kind of looking at the big picture of this, we just saw this really deadly form of discrimination, which, you know, gets into, on the one hand, the way in which counties, like Parker is saying, are complicit in carrying out Prevention Through Deterrence, that they actually have this active role, not just this passive role in carrying out and exacerbating the harms of this federal policy, on the one hand, and that’s sort of an important lever for thinking about how to challenge what’s happening on the border, locally. And then on the other hand, there’s this kind of larger constitutional issue, 14th amendment equal protections issue, regarding what does it mean when something separate and unequal and there’s all these Supreme Court cases, right, that have looked into that in terms of race, like Brown versus Board of Education, and seeing that those interpretations haven’t yet really been applied to cases of segregation based on citizenship status that are really in direct conflict with the mandates of the county that they have. Like, if you look at their protocol and their mandate it’s to protect the life of all people in their jurisdiction, right? There’s no language distinguishing citizenship status, and there’s actually anti-discrimination policies embedded in county protocols that we’re seeing being really flagrantly defied and the practice of having dispatchers just bump these calls to Border Patrol and away from local resources because of the identity of the caller.
**Inmn ** 16:52
What were y’all encountering through going through these call records?
**Parker ** 16:57
Yeah, I mean, I think we went into listening to these calls not knowing exactly what we would find and, you know, sort of vaguely thinking that we would find some evidence of Border Patrol not responding. But listening to these calls, what we found is that people are just being incredibly rapidly transferred to Border Patrol and then the call is, you know, ended with no record of what happened after that. There’s not really documentation of any of the outcomes of these calls. And we also just saw a lot of mishandling by the dispatchers. So what you hear basically is somebody calls and they say something in Spanish, sometimes, you know, people are transferred so quickly. It’s like, really, like they call and they say, "Habla Español?" and dispatch says, you know, "Hold on," and then transfers on to Border Patrol. So a lot of discrimination on the basis of people calling and speaking Spanish as well as they’re call plotting somewhere in like the remote wilderness of the Borderlands. So we saw that in a lot of cases, dispatch did not speak Spanish, so they weren’t able to communicate at all with the caller. We found that in 68%, of the calls we listened to dispatch didn’t have enough Spanish to be able to communicate with the caller in distress, which means that they’re missing really important information. Like you do have callers who are calling and they’re starting…they’re describing their medical condition, they’re describing their location, and dispatch, you know, is not able to communicate with them, which in a region where you have a humanitarian crisis, essentially, from a population that speaks Spanish, they’re really not equipped to respond to this humanitarian crisis or to carry out their jobs of being emergency responders if you don’t have Spanish speakers, working for the county. And then we found, you know, there were no intakes being performed. So in 99% of the calls, almost every call we listen to, dispatch did not conduct any intake. Meaning they didn’t ask any information about the caller’s name, their location, description, medical condition, do they have food or water? What do they see? You know, anything like that. And we did request 911 calls, like I said, from presumed citizens, lost hikers, things like that and in those cases, it is routine that they ask these sorts of questions. And the search and rescue deputies themselves have said, you know, "Every caller, we asked them the crucial questions because if their phone dies, something like that, then we’ve collected information that we can potentially base a search off. And that’s not happening in any of these cases. So there’s no information. So after the call is transferred to Border Patrol, you know, if that person’s phone dies, they’re not found by Border Patrol, there’s no information collected at all. We also found that in 50% of cases that we analyzed there’s no notice given to the caller at all that they’re going to be transferred. So they’re just saying like, you know, "One moment." and then they transfer it to Border Patrol. There’s no explanation of what’s happening. So that person who’s calling who’s potentially in like a life threatening emergency, they just hear a dial tone, you know, and then maybe the phone starts ringing. And so a lot of people, you know, seem to think that they’ve been hung up on or the call has been lost, which might lead color callers to, you know, hang up in order to not waste cell phone battery. Yeah, so that was in 50% of cases, there was no notice given. And then in another 13%, notice is given only in English even when the caller clearly doesn’t speak English. So yeah, they’re essentially, we’re just seeing these like really truncated responses where people are immediately profiled on the basis of the language they’re speaking. And then just immediately transferred,
**Inmn ** 20:37
Those calls are being traced, right? And so they have the ability to, like, really hone in on someone’s location if they receive a call from them just via cell phone technology?
**Parker ** 20:50
Yeah, so the dispatchers, the 911 system, like they do have access to cell phone tracing technology. And Border Patrol is relying on these GPS coordinates that are obtained by the dispatchers. But it’s kind of a faulty system. The accuracy can really vary, especially when people are calling from remote areas with not very strong cell phone service. So when they call, dispatch gets either phase one coordinates, or phase two. And what that means is phase one coordinates means that the call is only connecting to one cellphone tower. And so their exact location can’t be triangulated. So they just get the coordinates of the cell phone tower, and sometimes a general distance of thousands of meters, you know, how close that person is to the cell phone tower. But those are very inaccurate coordinates. And then if they’re able to get phase coordinates, that means that they’re connecting to two different towers and it can be triangulated and they get a much more pinpointed rescue. So they do convey these coordinates to Border Patrol, which is the primary thing that they base their search off of. Like I said, Border Patrol will often only do a rescue if they have exact coordinates. So the accuracy of the coordinates is, you know, a huge deal. It’s a matter of life and death for people whether they’re able to get phase one or phase two coordinates. And unfortunately, a lot of the calls are phase one coordinates because there’s such remote areas and there’s not a lot of cell phone towers out in the desert. So what we’re finding is that Border Patrol often won’t search in these phase one cases and will only search for phase two coordinates. And dispatch actually, you know, they can sometimes re-ping, you know, a call that they’re getting and eventually find phase two coordinates. So there are a handful of calls we heard where dispatch said, "I’m going to stay on the line while you talk to them and try and get better coordinates." And after a couple of minutes of trying, they might suddenly get phase two coordinates. So that is a huge difference that means this person might be rescued where they would not have been otherwise. But we’re finding that in most calls, dispatch is not doing that. They’re certainly not doing it as a matter of policy. It’s at the discretion of the dispatcher. And most of the time, they’re not doing it and they’re hanging up immediately after they transfer the call to Border Patrol, even though it can make a huge difference in that person’s rescue response and could potentially save their life. If they spend a few extra minutes trying to get better coordinates,
**Inmn ** 23:05
Have y’all been able to figure out if that is a matter of protocol or is it just that the person on the line just doesn’t care?
**Parker ** 23:13
You know, we do have these examples of cases in which the person does choose to do it. It doesn’t appear to be a matter of protocol. It’s just, you know, they get a lot of these calls, and they’re very, you know, bureaucratized about it, very routine. And a lot of the time, I think it doesn’t really occur to them to stay and try and get better coordinates.
**Sophie ** 23:31
With what Parker is talking about, where we’re seeing a real pattern of Border Patrol being unwilling to mobilize a search, right, like when there aren’t exact coordinates of the person, when it’s not a straight rescue, it makes that intake process even more important, right? So like a phase one call where you have 5000 meters of accuracy pinging off a single cellphone tower, well then in order to mount a search, what you really need is the narrative of the person, right, regarding exactly what they know about where they are, what they can see, what they’ve passed along the way, information about their medical condition, how far they are likely to be able to move or travel, you know? Do they have a lower extremity injury that’s preventing them from walking? How much water do they have left? Can they make a call back? All the information becomes so crucial if they’re only able to extract based on coordinates. And then I also want to add that we have cases in which even though phase two coordinates are being derived from the caller, there’s apparently no response from Border Patrol. So we had this case in March of 2018 in which a caller who’s crossing the border calls 911 in Pima County 11 times in 10 hours. He’s lost and alone and keeps calling because no one is coming and his call is transferred to Border Patrol every single time and his call has phase two coordinates within five meters of accuracy of his location and you can hear his medical condition diminishing with each call. And eventually he stops calling. And we have no record of an outcome. So there’s nothing with the phase two coordinates we can see that guarantees or mandates, you know, that says that Border Patrol is going to deploy. So within all of this, there’s like trends of what seems to work better, but there’s nothing really there as a true safety net to ensure response for someone calling 911 in distress.
**Inmn ** 25:37
That is heartbreaking in so many ways. In that like, yeah, it’s not negligence, it’s complete disregard for what’s happening. Like, I don’t know, I think that’s why I kind of like ask questions about the dispatchers where I’m like, are they aware of what they’re doing? Are they so entrenched in bureaucracy? Do they think Border Patrol is going to do something about it? Or like? And I’m like, what do they…what do these people think the outcomes of these situations are? And like with Border Patrol, it’s like, it’s clearly disregard, because if you know where someone is and you just don’t go….
**Sophie ** 26:36
I mean, I think the powers of normalization are so strong in the border crisis, like looking at Pima County, they’re receiving 1500 distress calls a year from people crossing the border, four to five calls a day. So dispatchers are fielding these calls all the time and automatically forwarding, automatically forwarding and that does something right? That creates normalization around disappearance within the culture of dispatch in a county. And we do see, you know, occasionally, bad actors, like dispatchers who are particularly abusive or hateful. We see on occasion, good actors, dispatchers who are clearly very concerned about the person and taking some extra measures. But it’s all still really constrained within this protocol that they’re not the ones actually facilitating a response, that they’re counting on Border Patrol to act. And because our data was, you know, derived for part three and from 2016 to 2018, we decided to do a records request, just a sampling of more recent calls, from June 2022, from last last summer, just to see, you know, is dispatch still doing this? And I was personally, you know, after we listened to–because we spent hours and hours listening to these 911 calls–you know, and it’s incredibly heartbreaking and discouraging. And I think I was hopeful that something had gotten better since 2018. And it was so jarring to see, you know, listening to the 2022 calls, like the same protocol being carried out. Someone calls, speaks Spanish, the dispatcher says, "Está perdido? Are you lost?" and if the person says "Si", the call is immediately forwarded and they hang up. And the rate of deriving phase two coordinates is still, you know, very partial. And in those calls, out of those 65 cases that we got notes on, 17 of those cases, the caller was never located. And so what we’re also seeing in these calls is that even when there’s clear indication, and even reporting from Border Patrol, that they’re not responding to a person in distress. The county doesn’t deploy. So it was really hard to listen to these calls where if someone’s in such distress and they get forwarded and then you see the outcome that they were never located, right, and the county has done nothing, even though they have full knowledge that there’s a person missing in the county and Border Patrol isn’t looking for them.
**Parker ** 29:28
Yeah, and what we see a lot in this case is this exactly what Sophie was saying earlier where, you know, we know from listening to the audio recordings that dispatch is not collecting information from callers and then we look at the case notes later and they say, "Well, you know, Border Patrol didn’t find them and we don’t have any information. So we can’t search." So just sort of this reinforcing loop where they, you know, they hand off responsibility to Border Patrol and then when Border Patrol doesn’t search, they don’t take up that search and they have not followed any of the normal protocols that they would have at intake for someone that they intended to search for like someone calling speaking English or a presumed citizen, you know. And so then they can just sort of wash their hands and say, "Well, we don’t have any information. So we can’t search."
**Inmn ** 30:09
Yeah. And like Border Patrol is not…if they’re like transferred, Border Patrol isn’t conducting a separate intake to get information that the dispatcher failed to get?
**Parker ** 30:26
Yeah, in the few calls, where we do have recordings of, you know, those cases where dispatch stayed on the line a little longer to try and get coordinates or for some reason we have a recording, you know, Border Patrol does seem to be doing those intakes that Pima County would normally be doing for someone they intend to search, but it doesn’t seem from any of the files we’ve seen that there’s any sort of that information sharing between Border Patrol and the county. The county is, you know, typically they hang up before Border Patrol does that intake and they don’t have any of that information on which they can base a search.
**Sophie ** 30:56
Yeah, sometimes we hear those conversations and like…what Parker’s talking about is true, that we do sometimes hear the start of an intake, but we also hear Border Patrol telling someone who’s in distress, has no water, perhaps injured, that they need to walk to a road before Border Patrol is going to go look for them. "We’ll tell them to go walk for an hour and call me back." [Border Patrol] This kind of handling, we had a case from 2022, from that batch of calls, where a caller is…the call is picked up by dispatch, the caller is frantic saying "My phone’s about to die. I’m soaking wet and cold. I’m lost." And dispatch transfers the caller to Border Patrol and the person is trying to say like, "I’m near antennas," like trying to give locational information. They’ve transferred to Border Patrol and he’s like trying desperately to talk and Border Patrol tells him in Spanish to, "Shut up." And like, so we’re hearing like, you know, hostility from Border Patrol towards reporting parties. And that was a call that only generated phase one coordinates within 5000 meters, which is like three mile radius around the cellphone tower, and the case file that we got on that said that Border Patrol never located that person and that the county took no further action on that case. So we also hear like obstruction and abuse in some of those calls with Border Patrol when we do get, you know, audio recording because the dispatcher chose to stay on the line. Yeah.
**Inmn ** 31:58
And like, you know, looking through the report, there’s some other standout quotations, whether it’s from dispatchers being like, "Actually, we’re not going to deal with that," or like a Border Patrol agent who says like….god, what is it, "They’re gonna stay lost," or something?
**Sophie ** 32:31
**Inmn ** 32:31
Yeah, that was the case with phase one coordinates.
**Inmn ** 33:04
Like, on the recording, the Border Patrol agent just like says that? Is like, like, "Well, they’re gonna stay…" like, Oh, my God.
**Parker ** 33:13
Yeah, dispatch gives them the coordinates and then the distance with the coordinates and the Border Patrol agent says, "This guy is gonna stay lost."
**Sophie ** 33:22
Yeah, I mean, you get the sense, even though this is public record, you know, anyone should be able to request these recordings, you can feel the kind of culture of impunity around Border Patrol. The agents clearly aren’t speaking in a way where they expect to be checked up on, you know. So we’re hearing those conversations and it’s something…. Yeah, it’s just this assumption of lack of oversight and impunity that’s really embedded in the culture of the agency and its relationship with the public.
**Inmn ** 33:53
Yeah. And maybe to clarify, these calls that y’all are listening to or like requesting, these are like, the dispatch calls? Like, if dispatch hangs up, is that where the recording ends? Like, y’all aren’t hearing the Border Patrol…like, once they’re transferred, you’re not hearing anything else?
**Sophie ** 34:15
Right. To get the Border Patrol end, you would have to have a successful FOIA, you know, which could take years and generally doesn’t render those kinds of recordings easily.
**Parker ** 34:27
Yeah, we submitted a FOIA request in 2818 or something and are still waiting on documents. And we’re working with a law firm who’s litigating it and we still, you know, have like, just started to get some documents. And that’s, you know, that’s beyond the capacity for most people.
**Inmn ** 34:44
Yeah, to get these like recordings of Border Patrol calls with people? Yeah, okay. Um, so there’s kind of like another side to…there’s another component to this report too, which is, I believe y’all call it "compromised care," or "EMS collaboration with border enforcement." I was wondering if y’all could talk a little bit about that?
**Parker ** 35:16
Yeah. Do you want to start with that one, Sophie?
**Sophie ** 35:18
Yeah, I mean, I think that’s a part of the report that pulls on aid worker testimony more heavily. It was really inspired by experiences of our volunteers–I mean, including Parker and I–working in the field and encountering people in distress who needed, you know, emergency evacuation to the hospital, and seeing the kind of infiltration of border patrol into the emergency medical response system, you know, every step of the way. So compromised care is less about search and rescue cases and more looking at the way in which Border Patrol infiltrates and inhibits EMS. So, I think Parker and I both have stories connected to this, but I was…in one situation I was out in the desert to put out water on Christmas with other volunteers and we encountered this woman Lupe in distress who had a collapsed lung. She had been attacked in the desert and left under a blanket and she was in respiratory distress. And she had been there for, you know, overnight, like a long time since that abandonment piece, right? And no one had been down that remote road until we happened to choose to go to a water drop out there that day. And we called, you know, talked to her…. And even though she was in such distress, it actually took a while to get her consent to call 911 because she was crossing because her son was chronically ill. She needed to make money to pay for his medical procedure, and, you know, was desperate to make it. And eventually, she did consent to calling 911. And we, you know, let them know we’re in this vehicle on this road heading to the local fire station. And when we arrived, there was this armada of Border Patrol, like 10 agents, multiple trucks, surrounding the fire station essentially and in and around the ambulance. And when they were taking her from our vehicle, you know, into the ambulance before realizing they needed to call for her to be, you know, helicoptered to the emergency room because it was so desperate, the agents were getting in the way of medical workers to try to get her ID to start processing her on her criminal migration violation, you know, while she’s like receiving care. And we followed her case, and she was…she had been, you know, assaulted in the desert and was handcuffed to her hospital bed. She had a Border Patrol agent stationed in the room with her the whole time she was there. You know, which is incredibly intimidating for someone who’s a survivor of assault or anyone. And eventually, I mean, her case was interesting because she eventually qualified for a U-Visa, a protected status, because she had been the victim of a crime in the United States. And we saw sort of the interplay between the county that was treating her as the victim of a crime and Border Patrol that was treating her as a criminal. So that was a really stark example. And we saw, you know, every time that we’ve evacuated someone to the fire station to get to the emergency room, Border Patrol follows the ambulance. You know, they’re really kind of embedded every step of the way, which is a deterrent to calling 911 in the first place and also can really inhibit care. Parker, I don’t know if you wanted to talk about cases you’ve seen?
**Parker ** 39:05
Yeah, one that really stands out to me is I was volunteering at our humanitarian-aid station one time and a man came in who had been bitten by a rattlesnake. He came in and told us that he had just been bitten. So myself and another volunteer, you know, immediately wanted to call 911, but similarly, you know, for a long time was saying that he didn’t want us to call 911, he didn’t want to go to a hospital, that he thought he was fine because of course he knew that if we did call 911 and and ambulance came, that would result in him being deported. This is a man who had lived in Tucson for years before being deported. And his family was there. His young daughter was there. And she had actually recently had an accident. So he was, you know, very urgently trying to get back to his family and didn’t want to be deported. And eventually he started to show symptoms and we said "Look, we like have to call 911. Like, we’re really afraid that you might die." He agreed and was brought to the hospital. A volunteer was able to visit him in the hospital. And yeah, Border Patrol was…. He ended up being evacuated by helicopter. Border Patrol was waiting to start processing him as he was prepared to do Lifeflight to the hospital in Tucson. You know, as soon as we started driving up, to like drive him to where we were meeting the helicopter, he saw the Border Patrol vehicle and was like, "I don’t want to go," you know. So it was really…you know, there’s a huge deterrence to people to–even when they’re like in a life critical situation to call 911, because they know Border Patrol is waiting for them. They know they’re going to be deported. You know, he ended up being brought to the hospital. They were denying visitation for a long time. They had him handcuffed at the hospital. Border Patrol was stationed in his room at the hospital. And then he ended up being deported without even completing his full medical care. He still had follow up work to do, which is a thing that we also document and see pretty often is people being deported who are still in pretty unstable medical conditions.
**Sophie ** 41:08
Yeah. And just sort of violations of medical ethics every step of the way because of someone’s…simply because of their identity or status.
**Inmn ** 41:25
Are there like…are there laws that require EMS to inform on someone’s known or unknown status?
**Sophie ** 41:37
I mean, my understanding of that is it’s really less about a legal mandate and more about funding and getting bumper funding from the federal government to cover, you know, the 30% of EMS calls and transfers in border counties that are undocumented people in distress. And so like calling and filing with Border Patrol is a way to access those bumper funds. Parker, do you have thoughts about that?
**Parker ** 42:10
No, I mean, I believe the answer is, no, there is nothing that requires them to inform on someone’s medical status. It really is about funding and the fact that, you know, Border Patrol has created this humanitarian crisis that’s overwhelmed the local emergency response systems in these rural areas. So they get reinforcement, I believe, from the Department of Home…. I mean, reimbursement from the Department of Homeland Security for the cost of providing the care. And that really is what has created this system.
**Inmn ** 42:39
Yeah. Dang…. That’s, you know, that’s just all really fucked up. That’s, my very…articulate opinion about all of this is it’s just really fucked up. I guess, like, what is the justification for the county to pass off all of this stuff to Border Patrol?
**Parker ** 43:09
So yeah, when we have, you know, confronted the county about this, they consistently deny making any decisions based on immigration status, which in addition to being a constitutional issue is against their own policies. And so what they’ll consistently say is that they don’t make any decisions based on immigration status but it’s purely based on a caller’s location and what resources are the closest, so saying, you know, Border Patrol is closest and that’s the only reason we transfer. It has nothing to do with them having crossed the border. But, you know, we know that this isn’t true for a number of different reasons. One is, you know, we document a lot of calls, like this one that Sophie was describing earlier, where the same person has called for hours and hours. You know, if you have the same person calling for 10 hours, he still hasn’t been rescued. You can’t say that you’re just transferring to Border Patrol because they’re gonna respond faster, you know, if you know, they’re not responding. So, yeah, what we find in the calls is that it really is, you know, the person’s spoken language and saying that they’re lost is really used as sort of like a stand in to determine that a caller is crossing the border, rather than actually being like the basis of why they’re transferring the calls.
**Sophie ** 44:22
And we have documentation of this. So there’s this case that was really kind of important to the development of this report that came in through the Missing Migrant Hotline. This was in May of 2019. The family of a 17 year old named Daniel had called the Missing Migrant Hotline because Daniel had contacted…or traveling companions of Danielle had contacted them. So he was 17. He was traveling with other people crossing the border and he fell ill, was unable to walk ,was maybe unconscious, and his traveling companions contacted his family, told them his condition, and said that they left him 10 or 15 minutes from a paved intersection and Miranda, which is a suburb of Tucson. So not remote backcountry at all. Like a named, paved intersection. And they had screenshots of the location. And so then the family called Border Patrol with this information, asking for response and Border Patrol refused to deploy. And then they called the Missing Migrant Hotline, and a volunteer who picked up the call then called–with their consent called 911–and so this volunteer was English speaking and called 911 and said, "There’s a 17 year old in distress this far from this intersection." He wasn’t asked anything about the identity of the caller. He didn’t…you know, he just said this is a person in distress. And then was told that, you know, deputies and multiple fire departments were en route to that location to the point-last-scene. And then they heard nothing for a few hours and the volunteer called back to see what was going on with the search and learned from the detective on the phone that they had called off the local response, the search and rescue deputies, the fire departments, because they discovered that Daniel was a known illegal immigrant. And that was the language in their case notes on the report, that it became apparent to them that he was a known illegal immigrant. So they’d called off local resources and instead transferred his case to Border Patrol. There was no follow up number and no one for the family to call to see what was the status of Border Patrol’s efforts to look further for him. And Border Patrol had already refused once to go out. And then three days later, his remains were recovered extremely close to the location that was provided by his traveling companions. And so that was a really outrageous case in which it was obvious that, you know, this is a suburb, this isn’t the backcountry, and that his case was, you know, forwarded, as they’re reporting themselves, because of his status to Border Patrol, who then did not prevent loss of life and the 17 year old died as a consequence. And this is incredibly normal. And even when we confronted, you know, with the family and a coalition, confronted the then Sheriff Napier about this, they still insisted that it was just location because they know that it’s a constitutional issue that it can be litigated against, if they admit, even though they’ve done it in writing, that they’re forwarding based on people’s identity. And then we have, you know, the opposite. We have cases of citizens calling for search and rescue in and around Arivaca, like in the border zone in this exact same mountains where a lot of these distress calls are coming from undocumented people, like people who went out to go hunting and got lost, and those calls aren’t transferred. They get a full intake and deputies on the way to rescue that person. So we have a lot of, you know, evidence to contradict their policy. But they seem to, you know…. And I think this is part of why we don’t hear dispatchers in these calls saying, asking directly, "Are you undocumented? Are you an immigrant? What’s your citizenship?" Because they know that that’s illegal. Instead, there’s sort of these like, kind of code words for that. Like, they’ll always ask, you know, "Are you lost?" and lost becomes, you know, a coded way of talking about someone’s status to justify transferring the call.
**Parker ** 48:31
I mean, it’s literally in their system now, They have it’s like, "Lost person," is their official designation, whereas like search and rescue calls with citizens are, you know, coded as "search and rescue." You know, even if they’re lost. But if the caller is speaking Spanish, they’re called a "lost person." It’s sort of their euphemism. And then as to dispatch, like you mentioned some of the damning quotes that we do have in the report, Inmn, you know, in these calls directly from people in distress, you’re not really hearing them, directly address their immigration status, even though that is the basis of how they’re responding to the calls. But we do have some recordings from over the years where you might happen to get like a dispatch from another county who’s transferring over a call and you hear the two, you know, county officials talking to each other. And we have a couple of cases like that. Like one where someone’s calling, I think from…I think that one’s Maricopa, and they’re saying, you know, "We have a call from this person. They’re in your jurisdiction." And the Pima County dispatch is like, "Well, you know, are they speaking Spanish?" And, you know, the other dispatch is like, "Yes." And they’re like, "Okay, so are they illegal? Because we’re not going to go search for them." You know, or like a case we had from 2018, where they said, "Actually, we’re not going to deal with that." And I myself and some other people have had experiences of trying to call 911 to get a response for someone and a dispatch, you know, maybe at that point doesn’t, you know, know that they’re not supposed to say this directly, will just say like, "Oh, is it a migrant? We don’t search for migrants." So there’s this thing where it’s very well known internally that that is their policy, but it’s also known especially amongst the higherups in the sheriff’s department that they can’t say that directly. So you just hear this sort of like, repetitive like, "Nope, it’s based on location. Nope, it’s only based on location because Border Patrol responds faster," kind of no matter what information we present them with to the country.
**Inmn ** 50:21
Yeah, that’s…I don’t know.
**Sophie ** 50:22
So it’s rife for, you know, transformation. It’s a context that’s rife for serious transformation, I would say.
**Inmn ** 50:33
I mean, is there any hope of transformation beyond the abolition of the border and Border Patrol or like the shitty hell-government that we have?
**Sophie ** 50:51
I mean, you know, part of me wants to say no. But I also know that there are serious harm reduction measures that could be put in place pretty swiftly to affect a lot of people’s lives. I mean, in the report we list a number of simple reforms that could happen within the dispatch system, such as having Spanish fluency be a requirement, right, for dispatcher hiring, such as requiring a full intake, such as requiring the county remain…maintain responsibility for these cases even if they’re calling in Border Patrol, that they’re responsible for the outcome and responding. So essentially, like, you know, there’s little granular reforms that could be made to the dispatch system. There’s a more general reform of everyone in the county should have the same response regardless of status, right? And if the county did actually have to bear the full burden of responding to these calls, they have the capacity to put pressure on the federal government, right, in a way that maybe we don’t directly do something to change policy. So there are those pieces. And, you know, I think a lot of that requires further investigation into this issue. More litigation. So suing them, you know, and trying to increase accountability and equity, you know. A more robust response is totally possible. Yeah. And trying to….I think part of what’s empowering about looking at the county versus looking at border patrol directly, like this report versus the others, is when we’re looking at Border Patrol directly. It’s like this, you know, totally opaque, powerful federal agency, that’s getting all this war on terror funding, you know. It’s like really hermetic and, you know, the goliath when thinking about trying to get any wins. But when you’re talking about the county, it’s like, there is more leverage, you know, for local people to demand accountability. They’re more vulnerable to litigation. So there is kind of…I see it as something that can be more effectively pressured if you’re thinking in those kinds of terms, you know. Will it end the border crisis? You know, not unto itself. But certainly it’s an angle from which to try to squeeze the policy of Prevention Through Deterrence, you know. So we’re hopeful that, you know, further investigation and exposure can put more pressure from this direction. I don’t know if Parker has thoughts about that, but I found it more encouraging to actually have names and faces of people to challenge, you know, to answer for these policies, for example.
**Parker ** 53:48
Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think it’s…. You know, search and rescue, no matter how well funded, is not the solution to the border crisis in that sense. You know, we gotta abolish border patrol for that. You know, definitely try and really center that we want this border crisis to end. We don’t want solely just more humane responses to it. But, yeah, I mean, I guess I’ll just say that working on these reports, especially "Left To Die," you know, it is obviously really fucked up heavy content, but there’s a lot of inspiration there in seeing how like communities respond themselves to go out and search for people and the way that families respond and just like the solidarity between people crossing the border as well as like border communities. And so, you know, I think that was sort of like a salve in sitting with all of this content is just, you know, seeing the incredible ways that people have responded…just themselves, you know, outside of these sorts of like, official response systems.
**Inmn ** 54:54
Yeah. Yeah. And it’s like, you know, it’s the question of like, "How can this be better?" it’s like, yeah, Border Patrol is the cause of the problem. So reforming it isn’t gonna provide a solution because they are the problem. They can’t…. You know? Like, they’re doing what they set out to do and it seems like they’re responses to search and rescue and things like that are just in line with what they set out to do, which is exactly what’s happening. But, yeah, do y’all have any other kind of…I guess closing things for…. I don’t know, for…. I think about this within a more direct connection to themes of the podcast, but what can people who live near border regions do to prepare for encounters that they might have with finding people who need help, regardless of their of their documentations status, or like encountering people who are lost or in need of medical care? How can people prepare for that?
**Sophie ** 56:11
Well, I think really, you know, kill the cop in your mind and know that humanitarian aid is never a crime. And that there’s…you know, there are court cases to back that up. And there’s a lot of people to back you up. I think, you know, if you live in a border region, familiarize yourself with the humanitarian groups and non-governmental groups that are working in that region. If there isn’t one, start one. I think, contact the ACLU about setting up a Know Your Rights training. There’s a lot of groundwork that can be done and you’re not reinventing the wheel to, you know, connect with others around this and lose your fears that you can act like a human person when you meet human people in trouble. So I think there’s a lot you can do. But it really starts with sort of embracing the notion that helping people out in a human way is not criminal, which is difficult when you’re living under the intimidation of checkpoints and helicopters but know that people are doing this on their own every day.
**Inmn ** 57:20
**Sophie ** 57:24
The other thing I want to say is just that I think right now we’re seeing this…. You know, we’re recording this November 22 or more than 40 days into the Israeli bombing campaign and ground invasion of Gaza and a lot of people kind of power mapping, you know, how is it that the US is delivering 70% of its military aid to Israel? You know, and what are the kind of the direct links between US border militarization and the militarism that’s, you know, killed at least 14,000 people in Gaza, and through that power mapping there’s a lot of revelations about weapons contractors that are, you know, there’s shared contracting between the militarization of the border and the militarization of the occupied territories. And, you know, people targeting Elbit Systems, for example, an Israeli company that has a multi-billion dollar contract for surveillance systems on the border that have super deadly consequences and putting pressure on them because they’re also a contractor advancing, you know, this moment of really genocidal violence in in Gaza and the West Bank. And so I think really, you know, supporting those campaigns and connecting those dots, because these are…. There’s sort of one industry that supports both of these border regimes, you know. And when we’re talking about segregation, we’re talking about forms of apartheid, you know. It is an apartheid system if you have separate laws and separate classifications applying to people based on identity and we certainly see that living in the border zone when we’re looking at something like the 911 system. So that you know, these struggles are interlocking and I think it’s really powerful and important to bring that solidarity in so that we don’t feel so alone, you know, when we’re fighting these goliaths.
**Inmn ** 59:38
And it’s like the…I don’t know if it’s weird to…or whatever it’s not weird. It’s just how information processes but like to…. I remember like 10 years ago when I first got involved with border aid stuff like getting this like tore of the desert and seeing these virtual towers, or listening posts or whatever they’re called, and like having the person who was facilitating that training talk about them like "Yeah, they’re like made by this Israeli company Elbit…the same company that builds these systems of surveillance in Palestine." And that’s happening to people in Palestine is essentially testing equipment and shit to use other places. And yeah, it’s wild to see a lot of that coming out now. But how like these different border regions have been connected for a very long time. And I don’t know, that’s not very articulate. But it’s all just bad. This is my burnout brain from talking about this for two hours being like, I don’t know, shit’s fucked.
**Sophie ** 1:01:23
But we must fight. Go to the protest. Such an important and powerful time to be getting together on this.
**Inmn ** 1:01:34
Yeah, and it’s like, like we see with stuff in the US-Mexico so-called, like region that, a huge thing that people can do is to just form community-aid organizations or groups and have these conversations with your community to build preparedness for how to deal with finding people who are lost, how to deal with the–it’s hard to say lacking because it’s purposeful–but the conditions that Border Patrol or like the US government or any government has created that are in these humanitarian crises.
**Parker ** 1:02:20
Yeah, and I, you know, I mean, obviously, this work is also connected to any migrant justice work happening away from the border. And, you know, I think just having this awareness of knowing anyone who’s deported from anywhere in the United States, this is what they face if they try and like return to their families. Like I said, a lot of people we run into in the desert, they’re from Tucson or, you know, they’ve lived in the United States for a long time. And I think also just sort of like an awareness of the impact. I think there’s less of an awareness of what the border is like, what the crossing is like, when you’re away from it. Even though, you know, there’s so many people everywhere in our country who have been, you know, affected by the trauma of crossing through the desert or are, you know, threatened with, you know, having to do that, again if they are deported or go visit their family in Mexico or something, you know, it creates such a huge barrier of like trauma between south of the border north of the border. So I think a lot of people, you know, when I give presentations are like, "What can we do to support No More Deaths?" And it’s, you know, probably something in your own community.
**Inmn ** 1:03:31
Yeah. Cool. Well, that seems like a good place to kind of leave it. Unless, I don’t know, do you either of y’all have anything else you’d like to say or are there questions that I didn’t ask you that I should have asked you?
**Sophie ** 1:03:49
No, we just appreciate you so much.
**Inmn ** 1:03:53
Aww, I appreciate y’all.
**Sophie ** 1:03:56
It’s really nice to talk through it.
**Inmn ** 1:03:58
Yeah. And I don’t know, that’s one of the big reasons I wanted to have y’all come on is that these conversations are so embedded in southern Arizona in like these places and I’ve had funny moments of going other places and trying to talk about this stuff and realizing that like nobody has any clue what I’m talking about. And I get really confused. I’m like, what do you mean? It’s so obvious that all this stuff is happening? And it’s…I don’t know. Yeah. But they’re just very embedded in our lives and our communities and I don’t know…. So thank you all for coming on and telling more people about this. And if people want to learn more about it, where can people find the report or any of the reports that No More Deaths has put out?
**Parker ** 1:04:55
We have a website it’s thedisappearedreport.org And if you forget that, you can just go to the No More Deaths website and find the link on there if you click on the Abuse Documentation tab. But yeah, that’ll have all of our past reports as well as we have summaries and fact sheets for them as well, as well as some really beautifully done animated videos showing the findings of the different reports. Not the last one but the first three.
**Inmn ** 1:05:20
And there’s a pretty cool article that someone wrote about it whose name I’m forgetting.
**Parker ** 1:05:27
Tanvi Misra at High Country News.
**Inmn ** 1:05:33
Okay, well, thanks y’all for coming on and talking about grim stuff and providing some little nuggets of hope.
**Sophie ** 1:05:45
Thank you, Inmn. Take care.
**Inmn ** 1:05:51
Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoy this podcast then abolish the border? Abolish Border Patrol? If you could figure that out, a lot of people would be really grateful. And, you know, you can also tell people about the podcast. It’s the main way that people hear about the show. And honestly, one of the better ways to support it. You could also like and subscribe or rate and review or whatever these words are. I don’t really know how the internet works. And, you know, boost it in the algorithm. I don’t…I don’t really know about that. But if you want to support us in other sillier ways–sillier to me because, you know, all things are silly. Well, not all things. Wow, Inmn’s in a ranting mood….. Another way to support the show is by supporting our publisher, Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness, and you can support strangers by going to tangledwilderness.org and buying books and zines and games. We have a lot of fun stuff coming out, you know, soon and next year including the TTRPG that we’ve been working on for an incredibly long time, Penumbra City. It is currently out for preorder and it’s going to be starting shipping in February. And you can also support Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness by finding us on Patreon at patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. On Patreon, if you support us at $10 a month then you can join the Zine of the Month Club where we’ll mail you a zine which is a feature that we put out every month. A lot of our…a lot of the features come from listeners and followers of the show and other podcasts that we put out. So find us at patreon.com/strangersinatangledwilderness. And in particular, we would like to thank these Patreon subscribers who have joined another club. And clubs are cool. I think. I don’t know. I don’t know if clubs are cool. But these people are cool and they are Patoli, Eric, Perceval, Buck, Julia, Catgut, Marm, Carson, Lord Harken, Trixster, Princess Miranda, BenBen, Anonymous, Funder, Janice & O’dell, Aly, paparouna, Milica, Boise Mutual Aid, theo, Hunter, SJ, Paige, Nicole, David, Dana Chelsea, Staro, Jenipher, Kirk, Chris, Michaiah, and Hoss the dog. Thank you so much for everything that you’ve helped us with. And we hope that everyone’s doing as well as they can with everything that’s going on. And we’ll talk to you next time. Okay, bye.
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