Please use the below form to sign onto our letters of support directed at the US Attorney’s Office and land management agencies in the West Desert. The text of each letter is included below the form.
Uphold the Rights to Give and Receive Humanitarian Aid!
Dear land managers of the West Desert,
We are writing to urge you to immediately grant civilian humanitarian aid groups access to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Bureau of Land Management in Arizona, and the Barry M. Goldwater Bombing Range. It is imperative that your agencies guarantee that aid workers be allowed to respond to the humanitarian crisis happening on public lands without fear of harassment or prosecution.
The crisis of death and disappearance in the southwest borderlands is a result of Prevention Through Deterrence, a murderous Border Patrol policy that deliberately funnels migration into the most remote and deadly regions of the desert. In the last six years, the remote West Desert has emerged as a deadly migration corridor, accounting for 44% of all known migrant deaths in Arizona in 2017, up from 10% in 2012. Migrants traveling through the West Desert face a journey of 80 miles through lands with few water sources in summer temperatures that reach over 115 degrees.
Altogether, more than 444 known deaths of migrants have occurred on these four land areas since 2001: 209 known deaths on Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, 130 known deaths on Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, 57 known deaths on Bureau of Land Management land in the Ajo area, and 48 known deaths on the Barry M. Goldwater Bombing Range. However, estimates put the number of bodies recovered to the number of migrants who go missing between a 1:3 and a 1:10 ratio. The bones and bodies of countless souls lie unnamed and unrecovered in the West Desert, denying their families and loved ones the closure they need to grieve the loss of their beloveds.
Organ Pipe National Monument, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, the Bureau of Land Management in Arizona and the Barry M. Goldwater Bombing Range have been gravely negligent in their response to this crisis of death and disappearances on the lands they manage. Rather than taking initiative to reduce deaths and facilitating an active civilian response, land agencies in the West Desert have obstructed the provision of humanitarian aid, increased militarization and Border Patrol presence and referred providers of humanitarian aid for federal prosecution.
Nine No More Deaths volunteers are currently facing federal criminal charges for providing humanitarian aid on Cabeza Prieta. On Organ Pipe National Monument, volunteers have faced increasing harassment, threats, and collection of personal information by park law enforcement. In short, your agencies have prioritized the criminalization of humanitarian aid rather than the preservation of human life. Humanitarian aid is never a crime, and with these actions your agencies cannot claim a neutral stance.
To address the crisis of death and disappearances on these public lands, we the undersigned demand:
- Organ Pipe National Monument, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, the Bureau of Land Management in Arizona and the Barry M. Goldwater Bombing Range publicly affirm their commitment to ending deaths of persons on the lands they manage, regardless of immigration status.
- Organ Pipe National Monument, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, the Bureau of Land Management in Arizona and the Barry M. Goldwater Bombing Range publicly affirm the right of individuals in distress to receive humanitarian aid, regardless of immigration status.
- Organ Pipe National Monument, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, the Bureau of Land Management in Arizona and the Barry M. Goldwater Bombing Range publicly commit to upholding this right by immediately ceasing to obstruct, destroy, tamper with, prosecute, or otherwise prevent humanitarian aid efforts.
- Organ Pipe National Monument, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, the Bureau of Land Management in Arizona and the Barry M. Goldwater Bombing Range affirm the necessity of vehicle access to land areas, including federally designated wilderness, in emergency search and rescues responding to specific cases of individuals in life-endangering situations, regardless of immigration status.
- Organ Pipe National Monument, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, the Bureau of Land Management in Arizona and the Barry M. Goldwater Bombing Range direct their agents, contractors, and other personnel to immediately cease harassment of humanitarian aid providers in the field (e.g. following, threatening, and blocking them) and cease legal and administrative targeting of humanitarian aid providers (e.g. revoking permits, issuing citations, and referring them to the US Attorney’s Office for prosecution).
- Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge remove Clause 13, barring the distribution of life-saving water gallons, food, medical supplies, and blankets, from its required visitor permit application.
Conservation of public lands and conservation of human life are compatible moral imperatives. We demand that your agency acknowledge the gravity and severity of the humanitarian crisis occurring on the lands you steward, and take immediate action to protect the lives and dignity of all people on these lands by upholding the right to receive and provide humanitarian aid.
Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge
Refuge Supervisor for Arizona and New Mexico
Southwest Regional Director
US Fish and Wildlife Service
Organ Pipe National Monument
Intermountain Region of the National Parks Service
Charles E. Buchanan
56th Fighter Wing Range Management Office
Luke Air Force Base
Arizona State Director
Bureau of Land Management
Lower Sonoran Field Office Manager
Bureau of Land Management
Drop The Charges!
Ms. Elizabeth A. Strange
First Assistant United States Attorney
District of Arizona
Dear Ms. Strange,
We are writing to request that your office drop the charges against 9 humanitarian aid workers recently targeted by federal law enforcement for providing food, water, and humanitarian assistance to persons in distress in the U.S./Mexico border region. Pursuing prosecution in these cases conflicts with basic principles of justice and will be met with an outpouring of community opposition and protest. Providing food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, and respite to the weary is not a crime; it is the quintessence of virtue.
Dr. Scott Daniel Warren, adjunct faculty at Arizona State University and esteemed Ajo community member, is facing three felony counts for providing “food, water, beds and clean clothes” to two individuals in need, according to the arresting Border Patrol agent’s complaint. Other volunteers with the humanitarian aid organization No More Deaths, a ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson, are facing various federal misdemeanor counts for allegedly leaving food and water on Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, in the West Desert region of southern Arizona. In 2017 alone, the remains of 58 people who died crossing the border were found in this area – nearly half of all remains found in Arizona that year. The main reason people die attempting to cross the border is that they do not have enough water and food.
Untold numbers of people continue to die and disappear in the borderlands, yet this monumental crime has yet to be acknowledged, much less prosecuted, by any element of the U.S. judicial system. We believe it is both absurd and profoundly wrong that an institution of justice should condemn those who flee violence and poverty and those who strive to prevent their death and suffering as criminals and conspirators, while this horrific and well-documented crime of mass death, disappearance, and suffering remains unanswered.
As you know, prosecutors use discretion when deciding what charges to bring and what cases to pursue, and as counsel for the state, are obliged to use this discretion in a manner congruent with the interests of the common social good. Surely, the preservation of life and the alleviation of suffering constitute acts in furtherance of the common social good. At the very least, they do no damage to it. We therefore urge you to act in concert with the arc of history, as it bends toward justice, and to drop all charges against humanitarian aid workers.