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At Cabeza Priesta National Wildlife Refuge, a wilderness area on the US-Mexico border in Arizona, conflicting policies permit the provision of supplementary water for wildlife but not for undocumented immigrants passing through the area. Federal refuge environmental policy prioritizes active management of endangered and threatened species. Vast systems of water resources have been developed to support wildlife conservation in this extremely hot and dry environment. At the same time, humanitarian groups are not allowed to supply water to undocumented border crossers in the park. Human border-crossers must utilize non-potable wildlife water "guzzlers" for survival and face risk of illness or death by dehydration. This article analyzes human rights via an ethnographic lens. From this perspective, water policy at the wildlife refuge brings into question the value of human life in a border conservation context, especially for those entering the site "illegally."


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Routledge an imprint of Taylor & Francis Group in Journal of Human Rights on Jan. 8, 2015, available online at: 10.1080/14754835.2014.988781