Desert Dream, Legal Nightmare / by Karie Luidens

Saguaro Andrew Seaman Unsplash.jpg

Last night I dreamt I was back in southern Arizona, hiking the chaparral trails just north of the U.S.-Mexico border. Others were with me, backs heavy with gallon jugs of water that we were packing up into the hills past saguaro. For some reason—dream logic—an old boss of mine was leading and my younger brother followed behind me.

We turned a curve and came upon a vigilante group in desert camo with semi-automatic rifles. They had their backs to us, but turned to glare as we hiked closer. One started yelling to us about—again, dream logic?—guarding the border against an invading army.

No, that’s not dream logic. That’s the actual logic of the vigilante militias who are out there in southern New Mexico and Arizona, camping, watching, waiting.

My brother started to argue with them, but I turned and shushed him. “Don’t engage.” That’s the instruction we were given in our No More Deaths volunteer training back in March, after all. If you cross paths with militias, don’t engage. Just keep walking.

We kept walking up a half-dry stream bed, higher and higher into a gorge, whispering back and forth with one another as the self-made soldiers disappeared from view.

Then what?

Then what happened?

The dream faded, I think. Or took a turn into another surreal scene. Dream logic. There was no end or resolution. Eventually I awoke, safe in my own bed but with a lingering sense of unease, listening to the birds of Albuquerque call to each other in the old tree outside my window.

I lay there for a while, watching the first sun-slants of morning glow through the blinds.

How will it end for Scott Warren? Like me, he’s a volunteer with No More Deaths. Unlike me, he didn’t complete a single week of water drops and then head home. He’s dedicated himself to living and working out there among the saguaro for years. I spent a few days stashing beans and blankets along migrant trails in the hopes that anyone fainting toward death could be saved by finding them. He’s devoted his life to providing not just emergency rations but extended care for those in need.

Now, thanks to the actions of a handful of government agents and the full-throated prosecution of the U.S. Department of Justice, he’s a potential felon.

Geographer. Humanitarian. Felon?

Scott Daniel Warren is about to go on trial in Arizona on charges of harboring undocumented migrants.

By Jonathan Krohn
05/30/2019 05:45 am ET

Warren, a 37-year-old academic geographer and former professor at Arizona State University, is a leading figure in the activist group No Más Muertes, or No More Deaths. Over the past six years, he has regularly driven into the desert to leave water, food and supplies for the hundreds of migrants who walk the Growler Mountain trail each year.

For this alleged crime, authorities charged Warren with trespassing and littering, both misdemeanors, in the summer of 2017. The following January, he was arrested and charged again ― this time for “harboring” two migrants, a felony.

With arguments for the harboring charges set to begin on Thursday [5/30/19], Warren has become a symbol of the Trump administration’s assault on migrants and the people who help them.

Then what?

Then what happened?

Warren’s trial is expected to continue throughout this coming week. If convicted of the felony charge, he faces up to twenty years in federal prison. Twenty years, for (in the words of the charge filed in court) giving people “food, water, beds, and clean clothes.”

Dream logic. Dream logic, nightmare logic, even as we’re very much awake.