In July 1980, a group of Salvadoran migrants crossed the border between Mexico and Arizona. They walked over a remote mountain range and halfway across a wide desert valley in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.
There were more than two dozen of them—people who had left behind lives and jobs to come to the United States. The migrants had hired guides to lead them on their journey through one of the most desolate areas of the Sonoran desert. But the heat proved too deadly and they hadn’t anticipated how far they would have to walk. Around a dozen of them died the first day out.
The survivors were eventually found huddled in the sparse shade of some scrub brush. They were delirious and suffering from intense dehydration and heatstroke. U.S. Border Patrol agents brought them to a hospital in Tucson. It was there that a Reverend named John Fife of Southside Presbyterian Church first encountered the migrants and began to learn more about why they had crossed the border.