Dora Rodriguez is a lifetime advocate and activist for migrant's rights. She is a survivor of the July1980 tragedy that took place in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, wherein 26 Salvadorans fleeing civil war in their home country were abandoned by their guide shortly after crossing the border near Lukeville, Arizona. Thirteen people, including three teenage girls, died horrible deaths. Denied U.S. asylum, Dora Rodriguez was one of the first people assisted by the Southside Presbyterian Church in South Tucson, the site where the U.S Sanctuary Movement was launched. The movement emerged against the background of thousands of Central American refugees like Dora who made the difficult decision to cross the U.S./Mexico border to escape violent U.S.-backed military dictatorships in their home countries.
Through the telling of what happened on her own journey, as well as relating her day-to-day experiences volunteering in shelters and network organizations on both sides of the border, Dora’s mission is to raise awareness of the brutal challenges that immigrants continue to confront making the perilous border crossing into the Arizona Sonoran Desert. Her hope is one with Humane Border’s mission to save as many lives as possible and to humanize the border environment.
Born and raised in the New York City area I was never far away from the Spanish language (remember West Side Story?). I arrived in Tucson in 1967, by then having become fluent in Spanish, to attend the University of Arizona. Quite by accident, I ended up in the radio business. First in the English language, and then in the Spanish language. My radio career lasted 40 years and took me to Phoenix for a while, and then back to Tucson where I live today.
I am the grandchild of Jewish immigrants. Each year we’d celebrate the Passover Seder at their homes. The story of the Exodus, of our being lost in the desert, and my grandparents flight from Europe had a profound effect on me. A few years ago, I read about a group called Humane Borders. Their mission is to prevent people lost in our deserts from suffering, as we did in the Sinai.
I am a Spanish speaking Jew that the Hispanic community of Arizona accepted with open arms. How could I not want to be a part of Humane Borders? Its mission is part of my heritage.
Poncho Chavez currently serves as the Managing Director of the Eller Economic Development Program at the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management. He grew up in Coahuila, Mexico, moved to Monterrey where he graduated from the Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon with a degree in finance, accounting and auditing.
Poncho is especially noted for his service to Central American families seeking refuge in the United States.
He moved to the United States in 1990, first living in Minnesota, where he obtained degrees in both accounting and English. After moving to Tucson, he became involved with Humane Borders in 2006 and joined the Board in 2010, becoming Treasurer in 2016. Poncho is well known to many border groups in southern Arizona and is especially noted for his service to Central American families seeking refuge in the United States.
Anne Lowe has lived in Southern Arizona for fourteen years, where she moved from Wisconsin. She retired from The Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona in 2015, where she worked as the Outreach Director for all of Tucson, and as the Northwest Division Director. Her main tasks were development and programming for the Jewish community.
She is currently the president of Congregation Bet Shalom, and was the immediate past chair of the Tucson International Jewish Film Festival. She is the lead contact for sponsoring a Kurdish Syrian Refugee Family for her synagogue.
Anne has been a volunteer with Humane Borders for over five years, and routinely volunteers on water runs in Southern Arizona.
In addition to these passions of Anne’s, she is also an artist, a writer, and a teacher. This past month, she published her second book,A Touch of Torah.
She is married, and has three grown children and eight grandchildren.
Dan grew up as a “missionary kid” in India, where his parents taught at a Bible College. He became psychiatric social worker who was employed in public schools as a consultant and advisor to emotionally handicapped children.
Together with Catherine May, his wife, who is a historian at the Salt River Project, he has five children and ten grandchildren. He is a member of and Deacon at the University Presbyterian Church in Tempe where has also taught adult education and is on the board of Presbyterian Border Region Outreach.
"We ... walk together on a journey of peace to remember people, friends and family who have died." - Migrant Walk
He is on the organizing committee of the Migrant Trail Walk, a 75 mile walk from Sasabe to Tucson that occurs each year. Dan became involved with Humane Borders since 2004 and has driven dozens of water runs from Phoenix to areas of the west desert in southern Arizona. He also enjoys walking and has walked the Camino de Santiago.
Norm Baker has been a volunteer for Humane Borders since 2002. “I believe very strongly in this lifesaving work and hope for a day when good people in search of a better life can cross the border legally and safely,” he says.
“I ... hope for a day when good people in search of a better life can cross the border legally and safely.”
I have been a contractor here in Arizona for 30 years building custom homes, and have recently retired. Originally from Nebraska, I studied at the University in Lincoln, and earned a Masters degree in microbiology. I worked a few years for a major pharmaceutical company, but realized I didn’t enjoy that somewhat confining lab work for a big corporation. I went back to hands on work building things for people and have found much more satisfaction. I still do some small remodel projects, woodworking in my shop, and volunteering for my church.
My wife Pat and I enjoy traveling to interesting new places.
Dinah Bear began involvement in causes involving migrants, when, growing up in southern California, she began volunteering as a high school student to support the Delano grape strike and boycott and learned about the plight of migrants generally. She began volunteering for Humane Borders in 2003.
Professionally, Dinah works in the field of environmental law and policy. She served for many years as General Counsel for both Democratic and Republican administrations at the President’s Council on Environmental Quality, the environmental agency in the Executive Office of the President. Ms. Bear has chaired the Standing Committee on Environmental Law of the American Bar Association and the Environment Section of the District of Columbia Bar Association. She received the Chairman’s Award from the Natural Resources Council of America, the Distinguished Service Award from the Sierra Club, and the Distinguished Achievement Award in Environmental Law and Policy from the American Bar Association.
Ms. Bear now lives in Tucson, Arizona, where she remains professionally active in environmental law and policy with a special focus on the borderlands. She received a Bachelors of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri at Columbia in 1974, and graduated from McGeorge School of Law, Sacramento, California, in 1977.
An author, journalist, and communications strategist, Laurie Cantillo has been interested in the border since moving to Arizona in the late 90s. She joined Humane Borders in early 2022 and has been a water truck driver for the Sasabe and BANWR routes. “I read an article about the thousands of migrant deaths right in my own backyard, and I was shocked,” she said. “This is a humanitarian crisis that doesn’t receive nearly the attention it deserves. It motivated me to help.”
In addition to delivering water for those in need, Cantillo is especially interested in bearing witness to the border crisis—sharing her experiences and seeking ways to foster a more humane border.
"The border has become so militarized and political, yet lost in the narrative is that people are dying. Migrants are risking it all for what we, as Americans, take for granted."
John Hoelter, and his wife Diane Hoelter, moved to Tucson in the summer of 1994, when John began employment at the Carondelet Hospice as a chaplain.
John retired in 2008, and both he and Diane started volunteering for Humane Borders. John drives for Humane Borders virtually every week and sometimes takes turns as a passenger. Diane often goes out on water runs and helps in many other ways.
"I am enriched by my association with the people at Humane Borders."
John says, “The work I do is a small part of a larger effort by good people I am pleased to know who work to keep prominent basic humanitarian concerns for those who, at great danger, cross the desert. I am enriched by my association with the people at Humane Borders.”
Since 2017, I have worked as a volunteer and driver for Humane Borders, making numerous trips to the border each year. As a proud third-generation Mexican American, I am compelled to assist migrants in need in the U.S.-Mexico border zone and am deeply involved in issues related to social justice and immigrant rights.
I am a Professor of Political Science and Faculty Affiliate with the Global Migration Center at the University of California, Davis. I teach and do research in the field of race and ethnic politics, particularly emphasizing immigration policy, attitudes and opinion about immigration, and Latinx politics more generally. My research agenda is multidisciplinary, encompassing not only political science, but also social psychology and sociology as well.
I strongly believe we should engage questions that produce research with an eye toward making a change. As such, my recent work has focused on the implications of deportation policy as well as the relationship between border enforcement and migrant deaths on the US-Mexico Border.
Lynn began volunteering with Humane Borders in 2016 at the invitation of board member Dan Abbott's son Aaron, who happens to be Lynn's next-door neighbor. A registered nurse, she is a native of Connecticut who landed in Arizona in 1990 after two years serving in the Peace Corps in Guatemala. During the 90s, Lynn worked as the outreach coordinator for a migrant center training community health workers in rural Maricopa County. Currently, she works as the Health and Social Services Coordinator for Alhambra Elementary School District where her aim is to eliminate barriers to education for Alhambra families who have trouble accessing the system.
Lynn is gratified to be a member of our organization because volunteering with Humane Borders gives her the opportunity to have a hand in protecting people who make the difficult decision to cross over today. Volunteering in the desert compels her to witness the harsh realities of the current border situation and to remember the risks that people take daily in their attempts to get across. When the border reopens, her hope is to collaborate with immigrant advocacy volunteers out of Ajo in coordinating medical services that HB helps pay for and which includes health education.
Gene was raised in Western Pennsylvania, earned a few college degrees, and operated a printing business in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. After a lifetime of shoveling snow, retirement in Arizona was a welcome change.
He became involved in the borderland humanitarian crisis upon joining volunteer search and rescue groups who represent families of the disappeared. He is descended from Famine Irish, some of whom perished in the Atlantic crossing.
As such, he is honored to be a member of Humane Borders, working to reduce migrant mortality.
My roots in the Arizona desert borderlands run deep. My maternal grandmother’s family, who were of Indigenous Mexican descent, immigrated to Southern Arizona in the late 1910’s, first as migrant workers, then as refugees of the Mexican Revolution. My maternal grandfather was of Native American, Enslaved African, and Irish descent. He came to Arizona in 1917, leaving the bigotry, racism, and violence of Jim Crow Texas behind, and going on to serve as a Buffalo Soldier throughout Southern Arizona. In the late 1800s, my father’s family, German and Galician Jews, immigrated to the U.S. to escape the violence of European antisemitism. They settled in Los Angeles where my parents met in the sixties.
My multi-cultural heritage and family’s teachings left me with a strong urge to help our fellow humans, and along our border is where migrants need it most. People crossing over into the U.S. fleeing violence, bigotry, and food/water insecurity need our empathy and compassion, not hatred and fear. I feel called to help in the hopes of creating a more just and humane border environment, and with the wish that migrants find a kinder, safer place for themselves and their families than those that they left behind.
Jose A. Vazquez is a native of Southern Arizona. He joined the Board in 2020. A 2006 graduate of the University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law, he brings years of on hands-on experience in the realms of both immigration and criminal law.
As a felony prosecutor at both the Santa Cruz County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Attorney’s office he’s handled and tried a wide array of cases including controlled substances, sexual assault, child abuse, fraud, and violent offenses.
As an immigration attorney he’s handled all immigration related cases to include business visas, family-based visas, and matters in Immigration Court. Jose is a former Arizona Chapter Chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and has served on AILA’s national Board of Governors. He is committed to making Southern Arizona a better place and is active in the community.
Joel Smith was born in Tucson but as a result of his father’s Air Force career, grew up all over the United States and Europe. After a stint with the U.S. Marine Corps, Joel moved back to Tucson. He began working with Humane Borders in 2009.
A strong believer in the humanity of every person and of Humane Border’s mission.
Joel is a strong believer in the humanity of every person and of Humane Border’s mission. In July, 2016, he was the subject of the cover story in the Tucson Weekly, discussing both his personal values and Humane Border’s work. He was quoted saying, “I am an Air Force brat and a Marine Corps veteran. I love my country. If you want to call me unpatriotic, it is like barking at a tree.”
Since the summer of 2017, Rebecca has been deeply involved in Humane Borders, often leading water runs out into the desert. However, she has been active in the Tucson borderlands community since 2010, the year she became aware of the humanitarian crisis happening on our southern border and of the terrible reality that thousands of migrants die for lack of water crossing the Arizona Sonoran Desert. She balances the important work that she does for our organization with teaching online courses in diversity for a non-profit university. Within this context, she seizes opportunities to raise student awareness about the causes and conditions that trigger migrant diasporas globally as well as to educate them about the trench work being carried out by desert humanitarians along the U.S./Mexico border.