Colibrí Center for Human Rights Watches Over Missing Migrants

Colibrí Center for Human Rights of Tucson, Arizona, is a non-profit organization that helps track deaths that occur along the border between the United States and Mexico.

The organization works with medical examiner’s office of Pima County, Arizona, where Tucson is located. Its goal is to end migrant suffering along the border by collecting data about migrant deaths with the hope of steering U.S. policy toward life-saving, migrant-friendly procedures.

The Colibrí Center’s director and co-founder, Robin Reineke, won a Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award in 2014. The award, given by the Institute for Policy Studies, recognizes individuals working to advance the cause of human rights in the Americas. Read more: Village Voice Media | Wikepida

It is awarded yearly in memory of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt, who were assassinated by members of the Chilean government in Washington, D.C. in 1976. Letelier and Moffitt worked in opposition to the government of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, Chile’s dictator.

The Colibrí Center for Human Rights’s three main projects are:

  • DNA Project: This project collects DNA from the bodies of migrants who have been found deceased and attempts to compare this DNA record against samples provided by the family members of migrants reported missing in order to help identify unidentified deceased persons.
  • Missing Migrant Project: This project works with the families of missing migrants and the Pima Country ME’s office to try to match the physical descriptions of the missing to deceased individuals whose bodies have been recovered.
  • Red de Familiares (The Family Network): A forum for families, migrant rights workers, and other human rights advocates to collaborate, engage in discussion, and make plans, this space consists of a closed Facebook group, a conference calling system, and a series of regional meetings.

The organization’s important work is made possible, in part, through the support of Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin. Lacey and Larkin were working for the Village Voice Media organization and living in the Phoenix area. On the evening of October 18, 2007, both men were separately arrested in their respective homes.

Ironically, the “crime” for which Lacey and Jim Larkin were arbitrarily arrested was for reporting on abuses of power in the office of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Those abuses of power, Larkin and Lacey alleged, included retaliation against those who criticized the sheriff. Lacey and Larkin’s report had been published as a cover story in the Phoenix New Times.

Although they were released from county custody after less than 24 hours, Lacey and Larkin went on to sue the sheriff’s office. They received a settlement of $3.75 million, which Lacey and Larkin used to establish the The Lacey and Larkin Frontera Fund. The non-profit organization supports various groups that advocate for civil, human, and migrant rights, freedom of speech, and civic participation in Arizona. Learn more about Jim Larkin:

Sheriff Joe Arpaio lost his re-election bid in November 2016 to Democratic challenger Paul Penzone. Penzone was sworn in as sheriff of Maricopa County on January 1, 2017. A U.S. Department of Justice investigation concluded that Arpaio and his sheriff’s department resided over some of the worst racial profiling in the U.S.