Category Archives: News coverage

Evidence in Scott Warren Trial Points to Government Surveillance and Retaliation

A motion filed by the defense in the case of United States v. Scott Warren last week in Tucson federal court has revealed the sweeping extent of government surveillance of No More Deaths/No Más Muertes and the retaliatory nature of Dr. Warren’s arrest in January of 2018. The Motion to Dismiss due to Selective Enforcement details months of communication between U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, beginning as early as July 2017 and discussing the movement and activities of No More Deaths volunteers in Ajo, AZ

According to the motion, on January 8th, 2018, nine days before Dr. Warren’s arrest, “[Border Patrol Agent] Marquez then provided Scott Warren’s home address to [USFWS Law Enforcement Agent] Ebann…The two exchanged information about vehicles Ebann had observed at the Barn, which included some he referred to as ‘the NMD vehicles.’ Ebann even told Marquez that ‘Warrens POV [privately owned vehicle] is there as well,’ to which Marquez responded ‘Oh nice’. The two law enforcement agents thus kept track not only of where Scott Warren lived, but also what kind of car he drove, and his whereabouts. This exchange makes clear that Marquez had his sights set on NMD, and Scott Warren specifically, although he never stated any reason to suspect them of doing anything illegal.”

On January 17th, 2018, No More Deaths released a report documenting Border Patrol’s routine interference with humanitarian aid efforts. The report was released alongside footage collected over several years showing Border Patrol agents destroying and/or removing aid supplies left in the desert. The motion asserts that Dr. Warren’s arrest was a targeted act of political retaliation resulting from No More Deaths’ open criticism of Border Patrol’s human rights abuses

The motion also examines, in detail, the communications of the Border Patrol agents who surrounded and surveilled “the Barn,” a base of operations for numerous humanitarian aid groups in Ajo, on the morning of January 17th. The agents spent the morning tracking No More Deaths volunteers’ activities in and around the Barn as well as at the office of the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. According to the motion, “At 4:38 pm, Marquez reports, he saw Dr. Warren step outside the Barn with two individuals he believed to be undocumented. At this point, [his partner BP Agent] Burns sent two messages…In the message to [BP Agent] Ballesteros and Marquez, Burns says, ‘2 toncs at the house’. Ballesteros responds, ‘What!?!?!?!?!?! Nice!’ This is surely not the reaction of a professional Border Patrol Agent every time he locates an undocumented individual.”

Previous statements from the arresting officers have asserted that their surveillance of the Barn on the afternoon January 17th was driven by information that two undocumented individuals were suspected to be in the Ajo area. Upon cross-examination, it was revealed that the officers had tried to obtain absolutely no descriptive information about the two individuals in question and knew nothing about their height, age, hair color, or other identifying features. The defense lawyers go on to assert that Agent Ballesteros’ exclamation is not “the reaction of a Border Patrol Agent who had a reasonable suspicion in the first place that the surveillance of the Barn was going to reveal the presence of undocumented aliens. Rather, it evidences Agent Ballesteros’s excitement at the idea of ‘busting’ NMD.”

Read the text of the motion here.

Volunteers Given Fines and Probation for Putting Water in the Desert

March 1, 2019

TUCSON – On Friday, four No More Deaths/No Más Muertes volunteers convicted of federal misdemeanors were issued fines of $250 per defendant and sentenced to 15 months of unsupervised probation. Natalie Hoffman, Oona Holcomb, Madeline Huse, and Zaachila Orozco were convicted in January of this year for engaging in humanitarian work on the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, a vast and remote area south of Ajo, Arizona. In the summer of 2017, one of the hottest on record in Arizona, the volunteers put out water and food on the refuge in the hopes of staving off death by dehydration for people walking in the desert.  They were charged several months later with Entering a Wildlife Refuge Without A Permit, Driving in a Wilderness Area and Abandonment of Property.

During the trial, Judge Velasco stated that “I think it goes without saying: You need water in the desert, and without water you will die.

“The border crisis in this country is a matter of life and death.  History will not favor those on the wrong side of it,” said defendant Madeline Huse. “Our border policy continues to push people into remote and dangerous parts of the desert.”

Over 10,000 individuals and 500 organizations signed onto a statement of support asserting that, faced with the same crisis of death and disappearance, they too would choose to put water in the desert. The statement was published in today’s Arizona Daily Star.

The sentencing comes on the heels of federal prosecutors forgoing criminal prosecution of a second set of No More Deaths defendants on the same charges.  On February 21, Caitlin Deighan, Rebecca Richeimer, Zoe Anderson, and Logan Hollarsmith agreed to receive civil infractions and a fine of $250 each in exchange for criminal charges being dropped.  A ninth defendant, Scott Warren, faces misdemeanor charges for his work on Cabeza as well as three federal felony charges for other humanitarian aid work. Both trials are scheduled for May 2019.

OP ED: “I’m being prosecuted for trying to save the lives of three migrants”

The below op ed, published earlier this month by CNN , was written by Parker Deighan, the abuse documentation coordinator for No More Deaths and one of the #Cabeza9 defendants.

February 1, 2019 – In a little over a month, I will go on trial for driving a vehicle in the Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge, a vast wilderness area in Arizona that shares a border with Mexico. At the time of my offense, I was a volunteer for the humanitarian aid organization No More Deaths, searching for three migrants who were lost without water. I was responding to a call from a family member who contacted our Search and Rescue hotline, after being turned away from law enforcement. Though I was never able to reach those migrants, I have since learned that two were detained and one was never found.

Continue reading OP ED: “I’m being prosecuted for trying to save the lives of three migrants”

Trials Begin January 15th

On Tuesday, January 15th at 8:30 AM, No More Deaths will hold a pre-trial press conference outside the Deconcini Federal Courthouse, 400 W Congress.  We ask supporters to join us then and for the rest of week in the courtroom as the trial unfolds.  Please tell us you are coming so we can be in touch if needs or updates arise.


DAILY TRIAL UPDATES


January 15th, 2019, TUCSON, AZ – Four No More Deaths volunteers facing federal misdemeanor charges begin trial today for their humanitarian aid work along the southwest border.  The aid workers are being prosecuted for their efforts to place life-saving food and water on the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, a vast and remote area south of Ajo, Arizona where 91 border crossers are known to have died since 2014 and countless more have gone missing.

“Members of our organization are being criminally prosecuted for placing water in areas where hundreds of people have died of thirst.” says Paige Corich-Kleim, a humanitarian aid volunteer with No More Deaths. “Anybody who has visited the refuge understands the harshness of the terrain and the need for a humanitarian response.”

The summer of 2017 was one of the deadliest on record in Arizona, resulting in a total of 32 known migrant deaths on the Refuge.  No More Deaths volunteers maintained a consistent presence in the area, putting out humanitarian aid supplies and responding to search and rescue calls for missing migrants.  That winter, nine volunteers, in places as disparate as New Orleans, Minneapolis and Seattle, received knocks on their door from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service.  Charges include operating a motor vehicle in a wilderness area, abandonment of property, and entering a wildlife refuge without a permit. One of the defendants is Ajo resident Dr. Scott Warren, who is also charged with felony harboring and conspiracy related to humanitarian aid work.  Dr. Warren’s felony trial is scheduled for May of this year.

The trial begins as the country goes into the fourth week of government shutdown, the longest in history.  “The president is holding the country hostage over his demand for a border wall and claiming the humanitarian aid crisis as justification for his actions,” says Max Granger, another longtime volunteer with the group.  “We believe a humanitarian crisis warrants a humanitarian response.  A border wall will do nothing to alleviate the crisis of death and disappearance along the US-Mexico border.  The protection of the right to give, and to receive, humanitarian aid is essential as long as the government maintains border policies that funnel migration into the most remote parts of the desert.”

Trials are expected to last through the week, with a verdict being issued sometime after trial ends.  Dr. Warren’s misdemeanor trial is scheduled for February and the final round of Cabeza defendants will go to trial in March.

Eight activists helping migrants cross brutal desert charged by US government


Eight activists helping migrants cross brutal desert charged by US government

Rory Carroll, The Guardian, January 24, 2018

Eight humanitarian volunteers who help migrants survive desert treks have been charged with federal crimes, prompting fears of an escalating crackdown by the Trump administration.

The volunteers, all members of the Arizona-based group No More Deaths, appeared in court on Tuesday charged with a variety of offences including driving in a wilderness area, entering a wildlife refuge without a permit and abandoning property—the latter an apparent reference to leaving water, food and blankets on migrant trails. Continue reading Eight activists helping migrants cross brutal desert charged by US government

Border Patrol agents were filmed dumping water left for migrants. Then came a “suspicious” arrest.


Border Patrol agents were filmed dumping water left for migrants. Then came a “suspicious” arrest.

Amy B. Wang, Washington Post, January 24, 2018

Last Wednesday, a nonprofit group that provides humanitarian aid to migrants in the Arizona desert released a lengthy report alleging Border Patrol agents were intentionally destroying supplies left for migrants in the desert, the group said, to “condemn border crossers to suffering, death and disappearance.Continue reading Border Patrol agents were filmed dumping water left for migrants. Then came a “suspicious” arrest.

Group accusing US border patrol of water sabotage sees member arrested


Group accusing US border patrol of water sabotage sees member arrested

Associated Press via The Guardian, January 22, 2018

Hours after a humanitarian group released videos showing border patrol agents kicking over water bottles left for migrants in the Arizona desert, a volunteer for the organization was arrested and charged with harboring undocumented immigrants. Continue reading Group accusing US border patrol of water sabotage sees member arrested

US Border Patrol systematically destroyed water supplies left for migrants in desert, report says


US Border Patrol systematically destroyed water supplies left for migrants in desert, report says

Ryan Devereaux, The Intercept, January 17, 2018

A new report says that humanitarian groups working along the U.S. border with Mexico have documented the systematic destruction of thousands of jugs of water left for migrants trekking north through the desert—and that U.S. Border Patrol agents are to blame. Continue reading US Border Patrol systematically destroyed water supplies left for migrants in desert, report says