A Pattern of Criminalizing Humanitarian Aid and Those Who Decry State Sanctioned Violence / by Karie Luidens

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Let’s pause and reflect on the significance of what we read yesterday.

I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

450 miles west in Tucson, Arizona, No More Deaths volunteer Scott Walker is on trial:

No More Deaths volunteer testifies leaving water for migrants is a 'sacred act'

Paul Ingram
Posted May 7, 2019, 2:45 am
Tucson Sentinel

The barren desert land where migrants have suffered and died, often alone under “excruciating” circumstances is “sacred” and leaving water there is an act of faith, a volunteer for No More Deaths testified as his trial began Monday 5/6/19].

Scott Daniel Warren, 36, is the last of nine volunteers with the Tucson-based humanitarian aid organization facing misdemeanor charges for leaving water, food, clothing, and medicine in the desert in the 860,000-acre Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, near Ajo, a small Arizona town west of Tucson.

Warren faces two misdemeanor charges stemming from an incident in June 2017, when he and a dozen other people entered the refuge to leave humanitarian supplies. Warren was charged with operating a motor vehicle in a wilderness area because he drove a white Dodge Ram pickup along an administrative road closed to the public, and for abandonment of property because he and the other members of his group left one-gallon plastic water bottles, cans of beans, blankets, and other supplies near Charlie Bell Well, a remote water station established by ranchers that is now resupplied periodically for animals.

Warren also faces felony charges for harboring after he was arrested on Jan. 17, 2018, at the "Barn," a privately owned building in Ajo, regularly used as a staging point for volunteers. […]

On Monday, Warren testified that his actions that day were part of a sincerely-held religious belief that all life is sacred, and that he was “compelled” to provide aid to migrants, as well as search for their remains, as a volunteer with several aid organizations, including No More Deaths, which operates as a ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson.

Meanwhile, 250 miles south in El Paso, Texas, activists with Tornillo: The Occupation have now been arrested:

Tornillo: The Occupation

Monday, May 13, 2019 at 10 AM
Facebook post

UPDATE: the four activists have been taken into custody inside the El Paso County Jail. […]

The sixteen activists facing criminal charges are part of Tornillo The Occupation, a coalition of various individuals and organizations from El Paso and across the nation that travelled to the borderland to bring attention to the inhumane detention of children at the now-infamous Tornillo detention facility.

The 15 minute action highlighted the stories of Jakelin Caal Maquin, Felipe Gomez Alonzo, and Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez, three migrant youth who have died in Border Patrol custody in recent months.

The coalition maintains the allegations made against its members are grossly exaggerated and especially egregious in light of the human rights violations that activists are speaking out against. […]

The coalition believes the charges are part of a deeply troubling pattern of criminalizing both humanitarian aid and those who decry state sanctioned violence. Days before the #Borderland16 warrants were issued in El Paso, students at the University of Arizona were issued criminal charges following a protest against Border Patrol representatives during a presentation on campus. As a result of people pressure, those charges were dropped. In January of 2018, eight members of No More Deaths, a humanitarian aid organization, were arrested for leaving water along known migrant paths in the Arizona desert following their release of a report that exposed a practice of Border Patrol agents destroying life-saving humanitarian aid.