Whilst in Agua Prieta I was able to visit the Centro de Rehabilitacion y Recuperacion para Enfermos de Drogadiccion y Alcoholismo, or CRREDA #8 (there are 13 in total, all within the border states of Mexico). This is a volunteer and donation-based drug and alcohol rehab center, with basically zero support from the government. Therefore to say that the center is lacking vital funding and resources would be an understatement.
You are greeted at the gate by the security, one of the patients who have self-checked themselves into the center. It is expected that once you check in you remain there for at least 3 months, though you are free to leave if you choose. However, if you do leave, and a volunteer/patient sees you on the street in Agua Prieta, you run the risk of being essentially kidnapped and dragged back in, hence you will sometimes see people running as fast as they can when walking around town with volunteers. The majority of patients are ex-gang members, often deported from the U.S., sometimes after doing jail time there for smuggling. Some are still in their teens.
There are 3 dorms, one for men, which sleeps up to 70 people in a space really suited for about 10, a womens dorm, and an area/dorm for those with mental disability who have essentially been dropped off never to be picked up again. There is a small church-like space for sermons and for AA style meetings, which occur twice a day. A kitchen is located to the back, though the smell from the disguarded food and 1000s of flies makes it difficult to hang around for long.
Roughly once a week, some of the people in CRREDA take part in Agua Para La Vida, and head out into the desert just outside of Agua Prieta, to fill water barrels placed on ranch land close to the border, a popular crossing area for migrants. Water barrels had to be moved onto the Mexican side as ranchers and the Minutemen had previously sabotaged the water barrels when they were placed on the U.S. side. The water is essential, as it is impossible for migrants crossing to carry enough water to last them the 3-5 day trek, especially in summer with temps into the 110-120 range (45-50 celcius basically)
So along with a volunteer from No More Deaths, I headed out in the truck with 3 members of CRREDA. It takes about an hour to get out onto the ranch, though it took a little longer due to a completely blown-out tire on the way there
Once you get off the freeway and onto the ranch land its clear you are in the desert, the terrain is rough, roadrunner birds start to appear, and the heat becomes almost unbearable. Riding on the back of the truck seemed to be a good idea, though there were a few close calls. Eventually we get to the first barrel, marked by a blue flag so that those crossing can find it. The barrels are usually located near dry washes (river beds that are dry except in the monsoons) or under big trees that offer shade and a hiding spot. Its clear these are heavily frequented areas by the disgarded water bottles, clothing, diapers, toothbrushes, and tins that once contained food
Getting closer to the border, you can see off in the distance the National Guard who have been deployed to the border to help in constructing the new fencing. Further off on top of the hills in the distance, if you look hard you can see the guard towers, that are often equipped with cameras. Eventually after walking around a bit, the Border Patrol begin to show up a little way off, clearly aware we are about, most likely because we have set off motion sensors when walking across the border line
On top of the hill you can just make out the watch tower
The base of the new fence being constructed along the border, which is still easily passable at this stage
Hanging out with two of the members of CRREDA and Meghan from NMD (looking back into Mexico)
Looking back in to Mexico along a heavily travelled dry wash
Sun-hats are the new black in the desert