Unit 5 Destination Discussion - Arizona/Mexico

Advance Preparation: Members of the group should listen to “The Missing Migrants,” a BBC World Service radio documentary about efforts to identify the remains of people who lost their lives trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

Please also turn back to the “On the Border” section of Chapter Three of Undocumented (pps. 141-147).


Many of the people who lose their lives each year in the border region die of what would ordinarily be termed “natural causes,” such as dehydration and exposure. However:

  • As you consider the stories you heard in this broadcast, what feelings arise?
  • What “unnatural causes” also contribute to these deaths?
  • What role have human institutions—especially U.S. border policy –played in shaping the conditions that lead so many people to perish each year while crossing the border?

How does the work of the groups featured in “The Missing Migrants” relate to the themes of our unit on “Bearing Witness”?

  • To what are these groups bearing witness, and how?
  • Is the work of identifying human remains in the border region a politically “neutral” act, or an “engaged” one? Is it a religious or a spiritual act?
  • Robin Reineke mentions in the documentary that she feels ashamed whenever families thank her for identifying the remains of their loved ones. What are some of the reasons she gives for these feelings of shame? How do her feelings relate to the pitfalls addressed in our Learning Circle discussion for this unit, such as the danger of regarding oneself as a “White Savior”?


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