No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes, an all-volunteer-led organization that embodies the very spirit of being the change one wishes to see in the world, has been chosen as this year’s recipient of the Wilton Peace Prize. The Wilton Peace Prize is given annually by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) to individuals or groups in recognition of their contribution to “peace and human progress.” The award was established by Henry and Irene Wilton in 1984 and previous recipients include the Vietnam Veterans of America, Rep. Cynthia McKinney, and the World Council on Religion and Peace.
No More Deaths is a human rights and humanitarian aid organization that was first organized in 2004 with a simple mission to reduce deaths and suffering among migrants crossing the border through the Sonoran Desert. Since then it has expanded its work to meet the changing needs of undocumented immigrants and their families and to increase national awareness and draw attention to the enormous humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, where more than 6,000 innocent men, women and children have already died. No More Deaths is the social justice ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson and runs a number of programs including the Desert Aid Working Group, the Summer Desert Camps program as well as an Alternate Spring Break Camp in Arivaca, and the Abuse Documentation Working Group, which has been documenting human rights abuses by U.S. Border Patrol agents against migrants in their custody for the past six years.
According to a nomination letter written by Rev. Diane Dowgiert of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson:
No More Deaths has contributed significantly to peace and human progress over the past eight years. Not only has this volunteer-driven humanitarian aid organization saved thousands of lives in the Sonoran Desert, giving water, food and medical care to displaced migrant workers forced to cross the most treacherous parts of the U.S.-Mexico border in search of jobs to provide for their families. No More Deaths has also spent the past six years documenting human rights abuses by the U.S. Border Patrol against thousands of migrants in their custody, both in the desert and in short-term immigrant detention centers.
No More Deaths has led the way in abuse documentation with its first report, “Crossing the Line,” in 2008, and has produced an outstanding second report, “A Culture of Cruelty,” providing high quality documentation of almost 30,000 instances of abuse from interviews with almost 13,000 migrants over a three-year period. They have set a national standard for the documentation of human rights abuses against migrants for subsequent reports by Amnesty International USA, the ACLU and other national human rights organizations across the country, who have sought out No More Deaths when beginning their research at the border.
In addition, through its “Keep Tucson Together” project, No More Deaths has been more successful than any other organization to date in helping local undocumented immigrant families stay together, by fighting to close the cases of inappropriate deportation orders sent to immigrant parents without any criminal record, whose children and spouses living with them in the U.S. are dependent upon them financially and emotionally.
Since the release of “A Culture of Cruelty” on September 21, 2011, the report has also received coverage from CNN, USA Today, Reuters News Service, Democracy Now and many other news outlets. No More Deaths will receive a $1,500 donation from the UUA to support its efforts.
Thank you, No More Deaths, for your incredible work for human rights, and a better world for all people.