A federal jury in Arizona delivered a win for humanitarian rights when it acquitted activist Scott Warren for aiding and assisting migrants along the border.
Warren, a geography teacher and border expert, has provided aid with the group No More Deaths since 2015. He and seven other activists were arrested in January 2018, and Warren was charged with felony harboring and conspiracy. Warren was traveling with two migrants from Central America. Two days after they made it to a shelter 40 miles north of the border in Ajo, Arizona, border agents arrested them. After a jury deadlocked in June, Warren was acquitted in late November of all charges.
Natural water sources are scarce and polluted in the desert. Reports from the organization state that border agents vandalized containers holding over 3,000 gallons of water left for migrants on hundreds of occasions.
No More Deaths surveyed dozens of migrants who have crossed the border or attempted in recent years. In 2015, a migrant woman named Evelyn tried to cross through Arizona with a group of others. After being chased by helicopters and agents on foot, she told NMD that they “ran until [they] couldn’t anymore” before hiding in some bushes. They dropped their supplies when they started running, and witnessed CBP agents dumping their water and food on the ground. “They were yelling at us to come out and cursing us,” Evelyn said. They proceeded to walk for five more days, drinking dirty water from a cattle tank to survive. No More Deaths has documented similar abuse on video.
“This verdict is validation of what we have always known: that #humanitarianaidisneveracrime
We will continue to provide food, water, and medical aid to all those who need it, until the day that no one dies or disappears while crossing the deserts and oceans of the world.”
No More Deaths / No Más Muertes was founded in 2004 by community and faith organizations along the border, where southwestern Arizona meets the Sonoran desert of northwest Mexico. But the area known by many today as the U.S. — Mexico border is relatively young. Present-day Tucson was ceded to the U.S. in a strongarm expansion purchase after the Mexican-American war in 1853. A few years prior, most of the present-day American midwest was Mexican territory (Chihuahua, Nuevo Mexico and Alta California).
Heading south from Tucson today, the vast desert stretches hundreds of miles south through mountainous and unforgiving terrain, with scorching daytime temperatures reaching 120 degrees. dipping to below freezing at night. Volunteers from the coalition walk the frequented migration trails, leaving food, water and first aid for those attempting the crossing.
“The government failed in its attempt to criminalize basic human kindness,” Warren said after the verdict. In an interview with The Intercept, Warren said that after two years in court, he became familiar with the government lawyers, wondering how individuals were so committed to prosecuting him. Warren acknowledged the harm caused by the prosecution, but he admitted that he eventually grew to have some compassion for them.
“I just don’t even know what to do with that,” Warren said.
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