Tucson, AZ – Today in Tucson Federal Court, counsel for the defense in United States vs. Scott Warren will argue in a pre-trial hearing that all charges stemming from Dr. Warren’s January 2017 arrest should be immediately vacated due to the selective nature of Border Patrol’s enforcement activities.
The Motion to Dismiss due to Selective Enforcement filed earlier this year 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. On January 17th, 2018, hours before the arrest, 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 references newly disclosed evidence that shows that Border Patrol and U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents collaborated to surveil Scott Warren for many months due to his status as a leading local organizer and critic of BP and USFWS policies. Additionally, BP agents previously testified under oath that their surveillance of the Barn on the day of Dr. Warren’s arrest was motivated by intelligence that lead them to suspect the presence of undocumented immigrants in the area. However text messages between the stationed agents that morning include no reference to said intelligence and demonstrate that the agents were surprised to learn of the presence of migrants at the Barn.
Attempts by defense lawyers to obtain this evidence from the government have been met with consistent stalling and evasion on behalf of the government. Last November, magistrate Judge Velasco ordered the prosecution to disclose any emails or texts sent to the two agents surveilling The Barn from 8:00 a.m. until these two agents went off duty on January 17, 2018. Rather than complying with the order the U.S. Attorney’s office engaged in ex parte communications with Velasco to avoid disclosure, leading to the judge’s removal from the case altogether.
To counter government obstruction and due to the fact that the majority of evidence in this case has been filed under seal, lawyers for First Look Media Works, publisher of The Intercept, recently filed motions to intervene to remove the restrictions on proceedings. “Sealing the exhibits…denies the public’s First Amendment right of access to judicial proceedings and judicial documents,” said David Bralow, First Amendment Counsel for First Look Media. “When proceedings are closed or documents are sealed, the public is deprived of the full benefits of openness. Unnecessary suspicion is introduced into the judicial process. Secrecy breeds mistrust.”
In response to the growing evidence that the organization has been consistently targeted by Border Patrol, No More Deaths is asking supporters to call the U.S. Attorney’s Office and demand that the office drop all charges against Dr. Warren.
TUCSON, AZ: On Sunday, May 5th, No More Deaths launched a search and rescue mission in the West Desert outside of Ajo, AZ, resulting in the ultimate recovery of four sets of human remains. The remains were encountered in the Growler Valley, the same valley in which Dr. Scott Warren was issued as citation for leaving water in summer 2017. Dr. Warren has been on trial the past two days and continuing into today for charges related to that incident
The search and rescue was launched in response to a call that came through the No More Deaths Missing Migrant Hotline after family members calling the hotline asked for support in urging Border Patrol’s Search and Rescue arm to initiate a rescue operation and CBP refused to mobilize resources. The first day of the search resulted in the team encountering a set of skeletal human remains that had been found and reported to the Pima County Sheriff in December 2017 by the Armadillos del Desierto, a San Diego based search and rescue organization. The Sheriff never recovered the body. The second day of the search, volunteers found three more sets of remains within a few miles of a newly installed rescue beacon.
The Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, where the remains were recovered, is one of the deadliest migration corridors of the US/Mexico borderlands. The Refuge does not grant No More Deaths and others humanitarian groups access to administrative roads, even in emergency situations. Search groups must embark on foot from the edge of the wilderness boundary – greatly diminishing response time and scope.
Dr. Warren has testified in court to his spiritual beliefs that compel him to provide humanitarian aid on the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge The discovery of four sets of remains in two days confirmed Warren’s testimony that “the Growler Valley is the area of highest and most need.
The No More Deaths abuse documentation team is investigating systemic governmental inaction to reported emergencies from distressed migrants in the desert. The findings will be published in Part III of The Disappeared report later this year.
The remains from the past two days have been reported to the Pima County Sheriff. The missing person has not been found.
Note: The image above reflects remains recovered in April of 2019 and does not include data about the individuals mentioned in this article.
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.
In advance of Dr. Warren’s felony trial we are asking supporters to help us connect with as many residents of southern Arizona as possible. In April and May we will be venturing outside of Pima county to visit other communities in southern Arizona and talk about the work No More Deaths does. We’re inviting concerned people across the country to phonebank the communities we’ll be visiting to give them a heads up we’ll be coming and ask if they want to show their support by putting out a sign in their yard.
Live in New York? Kentucky? Spain? It doesn’t matter! If you’ve been following from home and wondered what you could do to support, this is your chance. The charges against Dr. Warren threaten not only the work of No More Deaths but borderlands residents as a whole as well as thousands of people across the nation. If it becomes a crime for a humanitarian aid worker to offer water and shelter to those at risk of dying of dehydration and exposure, where will the government draw the line? Will it now become a crime for a food pantry to welcome in the undocumented community? For a doctor to treat an undocumented patient? For a spouse to feed their undocumented partner?
Don’t let the government criminalize basic decency. Support us now.