Four women were convicted last week after leaving food and water for migrants in an Arizona wildlife refuge that is on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The women, volunteers for the humanitarian aid group No More Deaths, left water jugs, beans and other supplies for migrants in Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and were caught on August 13, 2017. According to the group, 155 migrants have died in the refuge since 2001.
The 4 aid workers are among 9 #NMD volunteers facing charges for their efforts to place food and water on the Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge, a vast and remote area near Ajo, AZ where 155 border crossers are known to have died since 2001 and countless more have disappeared. pic.twitter.com/mnHR7hHknZ
— No More Deaths (@NoMoreDeaths) January 19, 2019
U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernardo Velasco convicted all four of the women – Oona HOlcomb, Madeline Huse, Zaachila Orozco-McCormich, and Natalie Hoffman – of entering a national wildlife refuge without a permit and abandoning personal property or possessions. Natalie Hoffman was convicted of an additional charge of operating a motor vehicle in a wilderness area. The women face up to six months in prison.
Judge Velasco wrote in his verdict:
“Each one acted on the mistaken belief that the worst that could happen was that they could be banned, debarred… or fined. No one in charge of No More Deaths ever informed them that their conduct could be prosecuted as a criminal offense nor did any of the Defendants make any independent inquiry into the legality or consequences of their activities.”
No More Deaths says that four other volunteers are set to go on trial in the next two months over similar charges. One volunteer, Scott Warren, faces felony charges of harboring and concealment after allegedly providing food, water, beds, and clean clothes to two undocumented immigrants last year.
“This verdict challenges not only No More Deaths volunteers, but people of conscience throughout the country,” says Catherine Gaffney, another of the group’s volunteers. “If giving water to someone dying of thirst is illegal, what humanity is left in the law of this country?”
As Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, tweeted: “This is literally–literally–what Jesus told people to do.”
Last year No More Deaths published videos of border agents kicking and empty water jugs that volunteers had left in the desert. The group later published a report documenting the “intentional destruction” of more than 3,000 gallons of water.
Progressive media groups have pointed out that cracking down on humanitarian aid groups such as No More Deaths is “part of a larger crackdown that the Trump administration has been orchestrating on the border.”
The targeting of humanitarian aid groups like @NoMoreDeaths "is part of a larger crackdown that the Trump administration has been orchestrating on the border,” says @rdevro, reporter for @theintercept. “It extends to family separation.” https://t.co/NFwiHbAVuI
— Democracy Now! (@democracynow) January 19, 2019