Migrant Encounters

Our experience has been that migrants usually hide from us when they hear or see our trucks, because they are afraid and don’t know that we are there to be of help. Unlike a few years ago, we no longer regularly see large groups of migrants. Sadly, the rate of deaths has not decreased and in some places, we are finding more deceased migrants than ever before. When we do have face-to-face contact with migrants, it’s usually when they are debilitated and have decided they can’t go on or are in dire need of medical attention.

While every migrant encounter is different, here are some guidelines for volunteers:


  • It’s perfectly legal and appropriate to give migrants water, food and a blanket or clothing if needed and available. You may also give a migrant first aid for relatively minor injuries using the first aid kit stored in every truck. If a migrant asks you to get in touch with a friend or relative for the limited purpose of letting them know what has happened to them and what their situation is, you may do so.
  • As autonomous human beings, migrants have the right to make their own decisions, even if they seem ill-advised or unlawful. However, Humane Borders volunteers CANNOT intentionally help migrants engage in an illegal course of conduct — for example, by giving them rides to the home of a friend or relative, or by assisting them to avoid capture by law enforcement, even if that may seem morally or ethically acceptable under the totality of the circumstances. Such conduct may well expose the volunteer to criminal charges and damage the standing and reputation of Humane Borders and the ability of the organization to continue its humanitarian mission. The flip side of this coin is that our volunteers have no obligation to turn migrants in to law enforcement unless they request your help to do so.
  • Probably the MOST DIFFICULT situation that volunteers have encountered is when one or more migrants appear to be in dire need of emergency medical treatment, or seem to be near death. In that case, a volunteer should immediately call the Border Patrol for help using a cell phone or by pushing the red call button on the SPOT GPS device in each truck. The Border Patrol has and will use helicopters and other emergency equipment not available to us to. If there is no cell service, or the SPOT unit does not appear to work or work quickly enough, or if the situation is truly grave, volunteers may give the affected migrant a ride to the nearest Border Patrol checkpoint or to a hospital. In such a case, the volunteer should call the Border Patrol and report what has happened at the earliest reasonable opportunity.