The Colibrí Center for Human Rights is a family advocacy nonprofit based in Tucson, Arizona. We work with families, forensic scientists and humanitarians to end migrant death and related suffering on the U.S.-Mexico border. Our work approaches the crisis on the border through a human rights perspective, focusing on three main program areas:
The Missing Migrant Project
Colibri’s advocacy work is grounded in data, which has the power not only to find the missing and identify the dead, but also to educate on a larger scale. Since 2006, our Missing Migrant Project has been bridging the data gap that exists between medical examiners and families of the missing. We work with families to create forensically detailed missing persons reports—specializing in often overlooked details like tattoos, prayer cards, belt buckles or other unique belongings—and then partner with forensic scientists and medical examiners to identify the dead. Colibrí has developed the first comprehensive system to track and compare missing and unidentified persons on the border. This data tool will allow Colibrí and our partners to facilitate more identifications, provide answers to families, and inform policy.
We created our DNA Program to assist in the identification of hundreds of individuals who remain unidentified after having died crossing the border. Because unidentified migrants are found in remote desert regions, identification using non-genetic techniques so as fingerprints and photo comparison is often extremely difficult. Of the thousands of cases that the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner has now examined, 942 individuals remain unidentified. Each unidentified individual has been sampled for DNA, and a very complete DNA database has been archived at a private genetic laboratory.
Colibrí will be travelling to five cities per year for the next three years to collect DNA samples from the relatives of missing migrants. Through clinic-style meetings with families, Colibrí staff will collect DNA with the presence of consular officials. Once collected, the DNA samples will be securely sent to the same private lab where the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner has sent hundreds of DNA profiles from unidentified individuals who died crossing the border between Arizona and Sonora. Comparisons will then produce blind matches which will be confirmed through the cross-checking of detailed forensic case information stored at the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner, the office with the sole jurisdiction to certify positive identifications for these remains. Notifications will be facilitated collaboratively between Pima County, Colibrí, and the relevant consulate.
Red de Familiares
The Red de Familiares (Family Network) is a space of connection and support for relatives and loved ones of migrants who have gone missing while attempting to cross the U.S.-México border. This network also serves as a forum for Colibrí to listen and evolve as families teach us about their needs. Our intent is to support the healing process by facilitating this space for connection and sharing. In the Red de Familiares, we communicate information, pose questions for discussion, and invite folks who might be interested in speaking with the media, as well as provide a space for relatives to process in community the trauma of not knowing what has happened to their loved one. In this time of increased uncertainty for immigrant communities, we hope to learn from families what their desires and/or capacities are for connecting with other families with missing relatives, and to other immigrant rights movements in the U.S. and Latin America. The Red de Familiares has three components: a closed group on Facebook where families discuss topics and share thoughts; conference calls where family members connect with one another; and regional meetings where individuals can meet face-to-face, share time with each other and meet Colibrí staff and members.
Historias y Recuerdos
Historias y Recuerdos is a story-sharing project offered by the Colibrí Center for Human Rights to families of those who have been lost on the U.S.-Mexico border. The intent behind this project is to give families the opportunity to reflect, remember, and share their stories about a lost loved one in a space dedicated to listening to the families, honoring the lost person, and recording these beautiful remembrances for future preservation and sharing.
HISTORY OF COLIBRÍ
Colibrí’s Executive Director, Robin Reineke and Forensic Anthropologist, Dr. Bruce Anderson, first began this work in 2006 as the Missing Migrant Project at the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner. In 2013, Robin Reineke and William Masson co-founded the Colibrí Center for Human Rights to expand the Missing Migrant Project and create a more comprehensive effort for the entire U.S.-Mexico border.
HONORS AND AWARDS
– Echoing Green
– Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award from the Institute for Policy Studies, 2014
– Award for Excellence in Global Service from the Center for English as a Second Language and the Office of Global Initiatives at the University of Arizona, 2014
– Recognition of Outstanding Commitment to Social Responsibility from the University of Arizona Honors College, 2014
– 40 Under 40 Award to Executive Director Robin Reineke from the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, 2014
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