What does Desconocido/a mean?

Desconocido/a translates to “unknown.” Often, many of the migrants who perish in the desert remain unknown because many do not carry identification or their bodies are found in such morbid condition that they can’t be identified. Unless they have distinguishable markings, clothing, jewelry or shoes, families cannot be sure that their loved one was found. Hundreds of unidentified persons are yet to be reunited to their home countries because of these reasons.

Do you recycle all the items found at the lay-up sites?

While we try to recycle as much material as possible, we never use any undergarments, moldy clothes, heavily soiled or items that have been eroded from the harsh sun or weather conditions.

We never use clothing from a nearby site where someone was found dead. Many of us who work with migrants in the desert have come across a deceased person. It is critical that these sites are preserved for the Medical Examiner and for the person’s family. These sites are sacred.

Often we find identification, airline and bus tickets that have been left behind by migrants. We turn those items over to the country of origin’s consulate. It is important that the consulates are notified incase this person has been documented as missing.

Plastics, glass and tin cans are recycled at local recycling containers.

Are these items cleaned and how?

We go to great lengths to clean the clothes thoroughly. Incidentally, ultraviolet radiation (UV-C) replicates a natural purification system by destroying microbes living in the clothing items. However, that alone is not enough. We wash the items thoroughly. Those clothes in good condition are used to create Migrant Quilts.

Why do you do this work?

We are deeply concerned about the loss of lives, over 3,000 migrants in the Tucson Sector, from deleterious policies that the United States has implemented like NAFTA, CAFTA, Operation Gatekeeper, Operation Safeguard and others. Unfortunately these policies have created an extraordinary need for people around the world to migrate where jobs are available. One out of ten people in the United States do not live in their home country.

How many people work for the project?

That’s a great question. There are no employees or paid staff. We are all volunteers donating our time, talent and energy to run the project.  Volunteers do various duties such as quilt, some do desert clean-ups, some process email requests, and some do the laundry. Douglas High School’s English Language Learners embroidered quilt squares. We encourage everyone to get involved through your schools, communities, churches, quilting groups, and all other social or humanitarian programs.

Ask us how you can be a part of this vital cooperative by emailing us.