Walking for migrants who’ve lost their lives

To bring attention to the severe risks migrants confront when they cross the border, Sisters Lucy Nigh and Judy Bourg, completed the Migrant Trail walk – a 75-mile trek – through the Sonoran Desert. The walk raised awareness to the 3,000 migrants who have lost their lives trying to cross the border in Arizona alone.

“For every death that is known, there are five to six more deaths that are unknown, and may never be found due to the rapid state of decomposition within the desert climate and wild animals scavenging for food,” said Sister Judy after completing her sixth Migrant Trail walk.Sisters Lucy Nigh and Judy Bourg participated in a 75 Mile Migrant Trail Walk. Featured: Sisters Lucy Nigh and Judy Bourg.

A familiar story for family members of migrants, is the story of a woman and her three-year-old child who crossed the border and never arrived to their destination. The family, expecting their arrival, had never heard from the woman again. In fact, in the Tucson area alone, 900 families are still waiting to find out where their loved ones are.

“It’s the heroism of the migrant, who out of desperation, a hope for a better life for their children, or even a desire to re-unite with family, take on the perils of the desert,” said Sister Judy. “They face the unpredictability of the desert, snakes, animals, thorns and heat are only a few of the issues that face the migrant after crossing the border. There are also those who prey upon the migrant, take advantage of and steal from them; migrant women are often assaulted along their journey northward. So while our 75-mile trek may have been at times physically exhausting, it is nothing compared to that of the migrants’ experiences.”

Sister Lucy Nigh’s Migrant Trail Musings

We walked for them, the 3,000 plus souls, known to have been consumed by the Arizona desert since 1999, as well as the 7,000 persons who died along the entire US border, crossing from Mexico. The migrant had dreams of employment to support education for their children, hope to unite with family, a need for freedom from violence and threats, a chance for a new start to life with real possibilities, and all were lost. Desert hazards of prickly plants and stinging insects, extreme cold and heat, lack of food and water, and a mountainous and rough terrain – all these plus fear, exhaustion, possible injury and being lost – robbed them of life.

Sisters Lucy Nigh and Judy Bourg participated in a 75 Mile Migrant Trail Walk, to bring attention to the severe risks migrants inhabit when they cross the border. The walk took place during the week following Memorial Day. Featured, the known deaths of thI carried a cross, for Abimael Blanco-Mariscal, age 26, whose body was found in 2006. It was mid-week when members of our group responded to a call for help to locate a person who was lost near the campsite where we had stayed. With that reality, my spirit connected more intensely with Abimael, imagining the plight he suffered in his last days and hours. Was he lost and alone? Was he injured and left behind? Who was waiting for him, and who was praying for his safety on this journey? Did his family ever hear anything about his fate? Who, besides me, is remembering him today? I prayed for his family and all who still felt the absence of his presence in their life.

As I walked, I prayed. With each sip of the water, of which I never lacked, “may those who are thirsty in this desert today find a source of water.” I prayed with each step of our well-planned journey together, “may our walking bless the steps of those who are traveling this same vast desert — may they be protected from becoming prey to the desert’s extreme demands.”

For us 60 walkers, we were not heroic in our 75 mile walk. Instead of constant vigilance against possible danger and fear, we had the support of each other and the purpose of this public witness. Unlike a real migrant, vehicles carried our camping gear. Community groups brought us food and water each day. In comparison, the most trivial things we experienced were blisters, and we had tape to prevent their worsening. We tired after 10 miles, the longest day walked was 16 miles, but was nothing compared to the seemingly endless journey of those who walked the rugged terrain at night. Migrants who walked by night, often struggled to find a place for rest, shade and relief from a scorching sun, by day. The spirit of those who had given over their lives to this desert propelled us forward, as they are the real heroes of the eternal migrant trail.

The journey was a contemplative experience, with at least two hours of walking in silence each day. It was a time to be in solidarity with migrants around the globe, to reflect on the courage necessary for anyone who chooses the unknown risks of leaving home for a new life, to pray for the wisdom to act and to raise our voices for justice and compassion for those who choose to migrate.

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