Humanitarians say Trump’s crackdown creates hostile environment for their work and refugees, migrants crossing border.
Shura Wallin shuffles through a stack of drawings given to her by migrant children. She finds the one she is looking for and lifts it up. It depicts a Border Patrol vehicle chasing three stick figures, their arms raised as they flee.
Each week, Wallin and other humanitarian volunteers set out for some of the most dangerous corridors in the southern Arizona desert, leave out water jugs for migrants and refugees and search for the remains of those who died along the way.
Wallin, a 77-year-old retiree, co-founded The Green Valley-Sahuarita Samaritans along with Pastor Randy Mayer in 2005 in response to the dire humanitarian conditions migrants and refugees face crossing the United States-Mexico border.
Today, the group has around 350 volunteers. And for the last 15 years, the volunteers have provided medical aid, humanitarian supplies and medicines for desperate people fleeing violence and economic catastrophe.
Since she started working on the border in 2000, Wallin has found severely dehydrated people, others with thrashed feet – having worn through their shoes during the journey – and recently deceased bodies.
Throughout her nearly two decades on the border, undocumented migrants and others crossing the border have been pushed into desperate situations.
“When we first got started, we found an awful lot of people out in the desert,” Wallin tells Al Jazeera. “The routes have changed dramatically; the routes are more dangerous now. It’s much, much more dangerous than it was in the past.”
But now, as US President Donald Trump escalates his crackdown on asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants, she says that humanitarian workers and volunteers are struggling to work in an increasingly hostile political climate.
“There are more challenges for not only people who those of us who are trying to save the lives of people, but definitely [there are increased] challenges for people who are trying to come across,” she says.
“When I listen to the rhetoric that spews forth from so many people, I think they don’t have a clue of why people are having to flee.”