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 Each unidentified individual has been sampled for DNA, and a very complete DNA database has been archived at a private genetic laboratory.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 (Family Network)
The Family Network is a community of mutual support and solidarity between families and friends of migrants who disappeared while attempting to cross the US-Mexico border. It is a space in which families of the disappeared can come to know others going through the same difficult situation, building a network of trust and support as they wait for answers and navigate the many obstacles of the search. United by the experience of a disappeared loved one, members of the Family Network find sanctuary in the collective power of witness and solidarity.
The Family Network consists of three components: a private virtual group, local comités in major cities across the United States, and a referral network of allied mental health and legal specialists. The comités are the heart of the Network, meeting regularly to provide a space in which families can support each other, articulate their needs, and shape the future of the Network. The virtual group serves as an open discussion forum for families to connect from afar, sharing stories and advice. The referral network exists to attend to families’ individualized needs. It also opens new channels for collaborative learning and support between practitioners and families of the disappeared, whose specific needs are often underattended and misunderstood.
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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