In a time when the U.S. government has turned its back on asylum seekers, activists stepped in to forge a humanitarian effort to assist them by providing aid for them. Now, those activists are facing at least 20 years in prison.
On Tuesday, in Tucson, Ariz., trials began for four of the nine volunteers with the humanitarian group No More Deaths. They were charged with misdemeanors in a federal court in January 2018 after attempting to deliver food, water, and other supplies to migrants on the Arizona side of the Sonoran Desert.
Democracy Now! released a 23-page report published by No More Deaths, which accused U.S. Border Patrol of sabotaging its humanitarian efforts to help migrants survive.
Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! interviewed Paige Corich-Kleim, an aid worker and volunteer with No More Deaths, who elaborated on the report.
“We caught border control on camera destroying our aid supples so went public with that. The video we released went viral and was seen all around the world by millions of people. Then, hours later, Scott Warren was arrested. So we see this as retaliation. It was very directly linked to the work we were doing in uncovering border control misconduct and violence. And we’re now being targeted for it.”
Although many of the charges range from “littering” to trespassing, one of the activists, Scott Warren, faces more serious charges such as: harboring and conspiracy. If he is convicted, he faces 20 years in prison.
The charges seem a bit harsh, if not incredulous, considering that the only thing Warren may have done wrong was not having a permit to enter the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Range. The website even states:
- Drinking water is not available, so visitors are reminded to bring plenty of their own water. Vehicles should be in good working order, have a full fuel tank of gas and full size spare tires. The main access routes and washes are prone to heavy seasonal rains and flash floods.
It hasn’t been reported that Warren tried to facilitate the migrants entering the country illegally. He, along with other volunteers, simply left water, food and supplies.
There are also other shady circumstances surrounding his case. In December 2018, The Intercept reported that the attorneys for Warren called for the removal of Magistrate Bernardo Velasco from the case because it was discovered that the judge had spoken with Trump administration prosecutors in private regarding details of the case, which caused him to reverse his decision to release communications sent to Border Patrol agents responsible for Warren’s arrest.
“With a trial scheduled for early 2019, Warren’s case comes at a time of soaring tensions over the Trump administration’s ongoing border crackdown,” according to The Intercept. “Should the government succeed in prosecuting Warren, it would likely send a chilling message to those working to address the crisis of death and disappearance in the borderlands, where a minimum of 8,000 people have died crossing north over the last decade and a half.”
The problem isn’t migrants needing food and water and people being willing to help them. The real issue is being citizens in a country where the government would rather penalize people for being decent human beings instead of analyzing its own blatantly shady practices.