Kiwi swimmer dives into US-Mexico border row

New Zealand-born open-water swimmer Kim Chambers. Photo: Supplied
New Zealand-born open-water swimmer Kim Chambers. Photo: Supplied

New Zealand ultra-distance swimmer Kim Chambers is diving into the political currents of United States and Mexico border relations.

The 39 year old is part of a team making a cross-border ocean journey to raise funds for families who have suffered fatalities at the US-Mexican border.

Over the years thousands have died or gone missing trying to enter the US from Mexico. The swim is not meant as a protest against US President Donald Trump's plan to build a border wall, but aims to draw attention to border issues.

Chambers told the New Zealand Herald: "This swim is particularly special, and due to the political sensitivity of the border, we have been careful to ensure that we are respectful of all government authorities, and within the bounds of the law."

The US Coast Guard, the Mexican Navy, and Mexican immigration authorities and the US Department of Homeland Security were all aware of the swim "and have wished us luck", Chambers said.

For the 12 swimmers, the main hazard was not sharks but raw sewage in the sea. Depending on conditions, the group could cover anywhere from 10 to 17km of the Pacific Ocean.

The swim, on May 5, leaves the US at Imperial Beach in California and goes to Tijuana in Mexico. Six kayakers will guide the group, which includes long-distance swimmers from Mexico, the US, South Africa and Israel.

Funds raised by the swim will go to support the work of the Arizona-based Colibri Centre for Human Rights. The centre has created a DNA database to help identify the remains of immigrants found in the stifling Arizona desert. Nearly one third of more than 2500 sets of human remains found since 2001 are unidentified.

Chambers said the idea for the border swim came from a journey last November across the Dead Sea by 28 swimmers. That effort aimed to highlight the environmental collapse of the landlocked Middle East water body.

Originally from the King Country, Chambers discovered swimming just six years ago as she recovered from a life-threatening leg injury.

The software designer does much of her swimming in the San Francisco Bay area, where she lives and works. Just the third woman to complete the Seven Oceans challenge, she made oceanic swimming history 18 months ago when she crossed 50km of cold shark-infested seas from the Farallon Islands to the Golden Gate Bridge, becoming the first woman to make the journey.

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