Gene Lefebvre & Sarah Roberts: Tucson, AZ
Hundreds of men, women and children die every year while trying to cross the scorching Arizona desert into the United States. The current political climate places them at the epicenter of an equally harsh landscape of conflicting ideologies, politics, racism and fear.
Rev. Gene Lefebvre and Sarah Roberts are two of the co-founders of No More Deaths (NMD). They lead, organize, support and work hand-in-hand with hundreds of volunteers who walk the remote desert trails of Southern Arizona in 100-degree heat carrying jugs of water, food and medical supplies. These “people of conscience” aim to prevent death and suffering on the US/Mexico border. Lefebvre and Roberts’ work carries with it a sobering sense of urgency and places volunteers in the center of some of the most dangerous terrain in the country.
Lefebvre is a retired minister and a founding member of the 1980s Sanctuary Movement, which provided refuge for political refugees from Central America. Roberts is a nurse in Tucson. Both use their time away from the difficult job in the desert to document what happens there and to challenge policies that are indifferent to the suffering and loss of life among the human beings who find themselves in immensely harsh circumstances.
Lefebvre and Roberts operate in dangerous circumstances and harsh conditions on some of the most rugged lands in the country. They and their volunteers walk remote migrant trails in extreme heat and work in communities divided by fear and prejudice. What makes their work effective, and at the same time allows them some success in navigating the very charged issues in the border region, is its clear focus on upholding the most fundamental human right – life itself – by providing basic humanitarian assistance to those in need.
Lefebvre and Roberts are able to find common ground, for the purpose of saving lives, with all who have a stake in the region. This focus also helps to defuse emotions and reduce the sense of personal threat between the various parties.
The work of No More Deaths draws in a wide range of “people of conscience” from all over the country. Hundreds of youth from school groups participate as volunteers over spring break. Scores of people of all ages and backgrounds volunteer every summer. Each volunteer must participate in a full day of training that provides information about the history and current situation along the US/Mexico border. At the end of their time volunteering, a follow-up discussion is held to talk about ways the issues could be addressed in the volunteer’s home community. Volunteers are also encouraged to be part of a network that will assist the families of deportees.
Lefebvre and Roberts’ contributions have inspired countless volunteers. No More Deaths is saving lives. Its simple, pure mission puts a human face on the tragic consequences of U.S. border policies.
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