Backpack Found in Sonoran Desert

Backpack Found in Sonoran Desert

A blue, gray, and black NICKS CLUB backpack with two orange zipper tabs with one large black zipper tab on main compartment collected in a remote part of the Sonoran Desert near the Mexican border. The past 20 years has seen a rise in unauthorized border crossing, border enforcement procedures, and debates about who and how migrants should be let into the country.
As the US federal immigration enforcement strategy known as Prevention Through Deterrence (PTD) increased the security presence around urban ports of entry in the mid-1990s, there was a shift in undocumented migration towards more remote regions of the American Southwest. Those making the perilous journey through this inhospitable desert landscape faced extreme temperatures (summer temperatures as high as 100° F/38° C and winter temperatures approaching freezing), rugged terrain, abuse from coyotes (human smugglers), and the risk of getting caught by the Border Patrol.
The site where this was found likely served as a way station used by human smugglers or a site of Border Patrol apprehension. Typical items found at these sites include personal hygiene products such as combs, backpacks, excess clothes, and empty water bottles. In preparation for the journey across the desert, migrants packed items necessary for survival, including food, water, medicine, and extra clothes in backpacks like this one. Unlike more expensive hiking backpacks, models like these are easier to come by and are less expensive for the migrants. Many did not hold up to the arduous desert crossing and were damaged along the way. As Border Patrol agents targeted those with large backpacks, migrants often discarded them in the desert once they crossed the border to avoid detection.
Object Name
Associated Place
United States: Arizona, Territory of, Nogales
Physical Description
nylon; plastic (overall material)
overall: 19 in x 18 in x 4 in; 48.26 cm x 45.72 cm x 10.16 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Ethnic
Many Voices, One Nation
Many Voices, One Nation
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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