They call themselves the Tucson Samaritans, and since 2002 they have dedicated themselves to the survival of people who make the perilous trek from Mexico to the southern Arizona desert.
Carrying backpacks filled with bottles of water and bags of food on a recent Saturday, four Samaritans drove to a remote spot about four miles from the border and walked across a dry riverbed in Walker Canyon, the only sound the crunching of their feet. When they reached the border fence, they hung the supplies on the barbed wire.
“The reason I started doing this is because my mom crossed the border 23 years ago,” said Alby Chaj, a computer science student at the University of Arizona who joined the group a month ago.
“She doesn’t talk about it, but I am sure there is a reason why she doesn’t want to talk about it. I guess this is important, ’cause I want to help people. I don’t know if anyone helped my mom when she crossed.”
Samaritan members try to leave supplies almost every day. They estimate that their offerings of food and water, permitted by the Border Patrol, have helped thousands of migrants over the years, but they do not know for certain. The numbers they do know are the reason they continue their work: More than 150 migrants have died since January 2014, according to Dr. Gregory Hess, the chief medical examiner of Pima County.
Robert Kee, a retired dental technician, has been working with the group for 10 years.
— Robert Kee
He told the story of a man who had just crossed the border and was handed a backpack by a young girl who was with his group.
“We gave him some food packs and water,” Mr. Kee said. “And he says, ‘Wait, someone else might need that.’”
“Oh my gosh!” Mr. Kee continued. “You are in the middle of nowhere. And you are thinking about someone else. He is a better man than me. So that’s probably why I do what I do.”
Produced by Yessenia Funes