Category Archives: News coverage

Hung Jury in Case Against Scott Warren

June 11th, 2019

TUCSON, AZ – A jury failed to convict No More Deaths volunteer Scott Warren today in Tucson. Dr. Warren was charged with two counts of felony harboring and one count of felony conspiracy for his humanitarian aid work in Ajo, Arizona. The jury was split with 8 in favor of acquittal and 4 against.

Dr. Warren has received an outpouring of support from communities and faith leaders across the globe. United Nations experts urged authorities to drop charges against Dr. Warren, arguing that “providing humanitarian aid is not a crime.”

With this outcome, the government has failed in its attempt to apply federal charges to acts of common compassion. In Scott’s own words, “Today it remains as necessary as ever for local residents and humanitarian aid volunteers to stand in solidarity with migrants and refugees.”

Catherine Gaffney, a longtime volunteer with No More Deaths, responded to today’s outcome: “The question of whether we stand with undocumented people and protect the basic tenets of a healthy society is for each of us to answer.”

After the case closed, both Dr. Warren and his lawyer, Greg Kuykendall shared statements in front of the federal courthouse to Dr. Warren’s family, supporters, and press. The two men spoke in front of 88 pairs of shoes lined up on the sidewalk behind them – each pair representing someone whose remains have been recovered in the desert outside Ajo in the time since Scott’s arrest in January of 2018. Read the statements here.

“I gave water to migrants crossing the Arizona desert. They charged me with a felony.”

As the government cracks down on humanitarian aid, my case may set a dangerous precedent.

By Scott Warren

AJO, Ariz. — After a dangerous journey across Mexico and a difficult crossing through the Arizona desert, someone told Jose and Kristian that they might find water and food at a place in Ajo called the Barn. The Barn is a gathering place for humanitarian volunteers like me, and there the two young men were able to eat, rest and get medical attention. As the two were preparing to leave, the Border Patrol arrested them. Agents also handcuffed and arrested me, for — in the agency’s words — having provided the two migrants with “food, water, clean clothes and beds.”

Jose and Kristian were detained for several weeks, deposed by the government as material witnesses in its case against me and then deported back to the countries from which they had fled for their lives. This week, the government will try me for human smuggling. If convicted, I may be imprisoned for up to 20 years.

In the Sonoran Desert, the temperature can reach 120 degrees during the day and plummet at night. Water is scarce. Tighter border policies have forced migrants into harsher and more remote territory, and many who attempt to traverse this landscape don’t survive. Along what’s become known as the Ajo corridor, dozens of bodies are found each year; many more are assumed to be undiscovered.

Local residents and volunteers organize hikes into this desert to offer humanitarian aid. We haul jugs of water and buckets filled with canned food, socks, electrolytes and basic first-aid supplies to a few sites along the mountain and canyon paths. Other times, we get a report that someone has gone missing, and our mission becomes search and rescue — or, more often, to recover the bodies and bones of those who have died.

Over the years, humanitarian groups and local residents navigated a coexistence with the Border Patrol. We would meet with agents and inform them of how and where we worked. At times, the Border Patrol sought to cultivate a closer relationship. “Glad you’re out here today,” I remember an agent telling me once. “People really need water.” In a town as small as Ajo, we’re all neighbors, and everybody’s kids go to the same school. Whether it was in the grocery store or out in the field, it was commonplace for residents and volunteers to run into Border Patrol agents and talk.

Those kinds of encounters are rare these days. Government authorities have cracked down on humanitarian aid: denying permits to enter the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, and kicking over and slashing water jugs. They are also aggressively prosecuting volunteers. Several No More Deaths volunteers have faced possible imprisonment and fines of up to $10,000 on federal misdemeanor charges from 2017 including entering a wildlife refuge without a permit and “abandonment of property” — leaving water and cans of beans for migrants. (I face similar misdemeanor charges of “abandonment of property.”)

My case in particular may set a dangerous precedent, as the government expands its definitions of “transportation” and “harboring.” The smuggling and harboring laws have always been applied selectively: with aggressive prosecutions of “criminal” networks but leniency for big agriculture and other politically powerful industries that employ scores of undocumented laborers. Now, the law may be applied to not only humanitarian aid workers but also to the millions of mixed-status families in the United States. Take, for instance, a family in which one member is undocumented and another member, who is a citizen, is buying the groceries and paying the rent. Would the government call that harboring? If this family were driving to a picnic in the park, would the government call that illegal transportation? Though this possibility would have seemed far-fetched a few years ago, it has become frighteningly real.

The Trump administration’s policies — warehousing asylees, separating families, caging children — seek to impose hardship and cruelty. For this strategy to work, it must also stamp out kindness.

To me, the question that emerges from all of this is not whether the prosecution will have a chilling effect on my community and its sense of compassion. The question is whether the government will take seriously its humanitarian obligations to the migrants and refugees who arrive at the border.

In Ajo, my community has provided food and water to those traveling through the desert for decades — for generations. Whatever happens with my trial, the next day, someone will walk in from the desert and knock on someone’s door, and the person who answers will respond to the needs of that traveler. If they are thirsty, we will offer them water; we will not ask for documents beforehand. The government should not make that a crime.

As told to Post editor Sophia Nguyen.

DROP THE CHARGES AGAINST DR. WARREN

On May 3rd, 2019, communities across the country came together to hold vigil for those lost and perished in the desert and to demand that charges against No More Deaths volunteer Scott Warren be dropped.​  Join us in adding your name to the growing number of voices demanding that the U.S. Attorney’s Office cease criminalization of humanitarian aid and drop all charges against Dr. Warren.

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

Continue reading Evidence in Scott Warren Trial Points to Government Surveillance and Retaliation

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.