Note: PC conclusions?
Volunteers pick up after locals, migrants
Ralph Schneebeli helps clean up trash on the Santa Cruz River during
an effort Saturday that attracted volunteers from around the state.
Posted: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 8:16 am |
Updated: 11:03 am, Tue Jan 31, 2012.
Volunteers pick up after locals, migrants By Curt Prendergast
For the Nogales International
Bright-blue trash bags dotted the Santa Cruz River on Saturday
morning as more than 120 volunteers cleaned up the river south of Rio
The cleanup was organized by Friends of the Santa Cruz River (FOSCR)
and sponsored by the Anza Trail Coalition of Arizona, the Arizona
Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and Rio Rico Properties.
The 123 volunteers, who ranged from Green Valley retirees to a Tucson-
based Boy Scout troop, packed everything from disintegrating sofas to
empty water bottles into two dumpsters donated by Santa Cruz County.
David Burkett, a lawyer, came all the way from Scottsdale to pitch in.
"I spend a lot of time in the desert," he said. "It's time to give
Saturday's ADEQ-sponsored cleanup came on the heels of a Jan. 19
meeting of an Arizona Senate border security committee, at which ADEQ
Director Henry Darwin spoke of the increasing problems posed by so-
called "border trash." "We estimate that about 2,000 tons, that's
right, 2,000 tons of trash are deposited in Arizona as a result of
illegal immigration and drug smuggling that happens near the border
in Arizona," Darwin told the committee.
But while some of the trash picked up on Saturday was left by
migrants, "the majority of it is local dumping," said Jen Parks,
president of FOSCR.
Volunteers attributed much of the trash to kids partying in the
woods, junkies, and locals trying to avoid properly disposing of
their refuse. "It's people too lazy to haul it to the dump," said
Ralph Schneebeli, a retired employee of Eastman Kodak who now lives
in Green Valley. "We found parts of a swingset. An illegal immigrant
didn't haul that across the border."
Much of the locally dumped trash was found near a dirt road that
crossed the riverbed, while the migrant trash was spread out along
the sides of the river.
"Any place where there's a little shelter, that's where we see
migrant trash," said Jerry Kosmeder, a volunteer from Tucson.
Kosmeder had a quick way to tell where the trash came from. He held
up a water bottle and said "migrant trash." Then he held up a beer
bottle and said "locals."
ADEQ spokesman Mark Shaffer said Saturday's cleanup netted "at least
125 bags of migrant trash and almost an identical amount from illegal
dumping by locals."
As for larger items left by locals, Shaffer counted 24 tires in
addition to things like mattresses and couches. In all, Parks said,
volunteers filled one dumpster with 5,540 pounds (2.77 tons) of
refuse, and she expected the same amount in the second.
ADEQ has done previous cleanups in more remote areas near Arivaca and
Yuma, Shaffer said, but Saturday was "by far the largest number of
volunteers we've had at these cleanups and the amount of trash
certainly warranted that."
The steady flow of illegal dumping and illegal immigration makes it
nearly impossible to keep the river clean, other organizers said.
"We could come out here every three months and it would still look
like this," said Karol Stubbs, president of the Anza Trail Coalition
However, periodic cleanups of trash on the Santa Cruz River help keep
disasters at bay.
"Eventually it's going to rain and all of this will flood and it'll
end up in Tubac," Parks said, adding that cleanups also reduce the
risk of more immediate dangers, such as being poked by dirty
Ben Lomeli, an FOSCR board member, said he hopes local people will
show more respect and take their trash with them when they leave. "We
need to get back to that. Pack it in, pack it out, you know?" he said.
As for the migrants, deportees at a shelter in Nogales, Sonora
acknowledged that some illegal border-crossers willingly discard
their trash in the Arizona desert, but insisted that in many cases,
others are to blame.
For example, Ubence Flores, a migrant from Comayagua, Honduras, said
that "polleros," or migrant guides, make the crossers get rid of
their belongings when they arrive at a scheduled pickup point. The
pollero puts everything in black plastic bags, like those found by
the river on Saturday, and then throws them in a truck to be taken to
a dumping site, such as in the trees along the Santa Cruz River.
Bandits also force migrants to leave their belongings in the desert,
said Henry Alberto Osorio, another Honduran migrant. In this common
tactic, he said, bandits threaten migrants, who flee as fast as they
can. Then the bandits pick through the abandoned backpacks for
But other times, the difficulty of crossing desert terrain for days
on end proves too much for migrants. "It gets so heavy, sometimes
you say 'I can't carry this anymore,' and leave it," Flores said.