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:
1) FAMILY ADVOCACY
Given the transnational and marginalized nature of migrant communities, missing and unidentified migrant cases are uniquely challenging to resolve. Too often, families are denied the basic right to know the fate of a loved one. In the meantime, they struggle to cope with this devastating and confusing loss.
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.
The Family Network
Through Colibrí’s Family Network—an online advocacy tool that amplifies voices, and connects families to one another, to media, and to the larger immigrant rights movement—we also provide a safe space for support, communication, and organizing among those who have lost someone on the border.
2) ARTS + STORYTELLING
Immigration has become one of the most fiercely debated topics in national politics, yet the voices of thousands who have been irreparably hurt by immigration policies are silenced. Too often we witness the continued dehumanization of migrants and their families, with people speaking in abstractions rather than about unique and complex human beings.
Colibrí believes in the power of the families and their stories to change the way we see this issue. We witness the human heart of migration every day. We hear the reasons people are compelled to risk their lives crossing the desert on foot: to get back home after being deported so a family can avoid eviction, to save money so that one day a daughter can attend college, to work in order to pay for a son’s leukemia treatment. We bear witness to these truths and connect families to platforms where they can share their stories with audiences who must join the growing community working to create change.
Communicating Through Art
By partnering with artists and storytellers of all kinds, we also work to raise consciousness about the crisis on the border and the injustices facing immigrant communities. In many ways, art is a way to communicate truths on a deeper level than verbal communication. We have witnessed the beauty and power that art can have on shifting perceptions and engaging the public. Our collaborations who various talented artists and storytellers have fostered a special sense of community, a community that is inspiringly dedicated to communicating the humanity inherent in this highly divisive crisis.
3) POLICY REFORM
The data shows that the increase in death and disappearance on the U.S.-Mexico border has been a direct consequence of the extensive border enforcement and militarization process that began during the 1990’s and continues today. Despite the ever-growing amount of resources put toward curbing migration, experts argue that this investment has yielded diminishing returns and has primarily served to push migration further into dangerous geographies.In addition to federal policies that put migrant lives at risk, local policies throughout the borderlands hurt families even after their loved ones have died or gone missing. From inconsistent and unethical practices to a lack of due process, border counties are rife with the mistreatment of migrants and their families. Colibrí uses our data and expertise gained over the past decade to advance border and immigration policies that are just and protect the needs of families — both nationally and regionally.
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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