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.

Federal Government Drops Charges Against Four No More Deaths Volunteers, One Still Faces Trial

February 21, 2019

Federal Government Drops Charges Against Four No More Deaths Volunteers, One Still Faces Trial

TUCSON: On Thursday federal prosecutors dropped criminal charges against four humanitarian aid volunteers.  The charges came down as a result of the volunteers’ search for migrants missing in the desert. They have now been issued civil infractions carrying a fine of $250 each.  One remaining volunteer, Scott Warren, continues to await trial both on misdemeanor charges and felony charges for his humanitarian aid work in the Ajo corridor.

In July 2017, No More Deaths’ Search and Rescue hotline received a call about three migrants in distress on the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. Border Patrol and the local sheriff were notified but initially declined to mobilize resources to respond. The four humanitarian aid workers immediately initiated a search.

The volunteers spent hours searching for the three migrants. Upon exiting the refuge that night, they were stopped, detained and questioned by Fish and Wildlife officials and Border Patrol. In the following days two of the migrants were located alive and were subsequently deported.  Additional No More Deaths volunteers attempted to continue to search for the remaining individual but were denied access by refuge managers. The third man was never found.

Months later that group, as well as five other No More Deaths volunteers, found out that the government had filed federal charges against them for their work on the refuge.  Earlier this year, four went to trial and were convicted of federal misdemeanors – their sentencing is on March 1st.  Each volunteer faces both possible prison time and a fine of up to $10,000.  Warren is scheduled to go to trial in May of this year.

“Today might be a victory for No More Deaths, but people continue to die and disappear every day in the desert,”  said defendant Logan Hollarsmith. “Our hearts remain with the families of the disappeared. As long as border policy funnels migrants into the most remote corridors of the desert, the need for a humanitarian response will continue.”

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”