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

February 21, 2019

For Immediate Release

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.”

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.

What is required to stand for human rights

Dear friends of No More Deaths,

Because you have followed and supported No More Deaths, you already know the challenges that humanitarian-aid workers face in providing basic human needs like food and water to those who in desperation travel through our borderlands. We hear your voices, which encourage us to carry on because it is the right thing to do in spite of all our government does to discourage this work, including targeting our volunteers with a litany of criminal charges. Continue reading What is required to stand for human rights