Scott Warren goes to trial
May 29, 2019
The Intercept released a video earlier in the month about volunteers that provide support to people crossing the desert in Arizona, leaving water and at times, documenting the location of the remains of immigrants.
One of the volunteers, Scott Warren, has been charged with a felony for offering assistance to people in the desert. From a Guardian report last year:
On 17 January , No More Deaths released a report documenting the systematic destruction by border patrol of water and food supplies left in the desert for migrants. Over a nearly four-year period, 3,856 gallons of water had been destroyed. The report linked to video showing border patrol kicking over gallons and pouring them out onto the ground.
Hours after the report was released, Scott Warren, a volunteer with No More Deaths, was arrested and charged with a felony for harboring migrants after Border Patrol allegedly witnessed him giving food and water to two migrants in the west desert near Cabeza Prieta.
The Intercept has a detailed story about the border and Scott’s case, as well as contextualizing the work of No More Deaths and other volunteer organizations doing work on the border.
The number of people who die crossing the border has increased dramatically since 2000. And it is important to make clear that this is the result of an intentional policy, “prevention through deterrence,” enacted by the Clinton administration in 1994. The program sought to block irregular border crossing through adjacent urban areas on the U.S./Mexico border by constructing barriers and forcing people into the desert. From the Intercept:
Prevention through deterrence was meant to act in conjunction with the North American Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA would bring prosperity to the working Mexican, prevention through deterrence would make the dash across the border too big of a gamble, and illegal crossings would go down. Migration flows did indeed move away from cities once the policy was implemented, but the “hostile terrain” could not disperse the ineluctable forces that drive human beings to move. That’s when the dying began.
Experts can only guess at the true number of lives lost over the last two decades. At a minimum, more than 7,000 people have perished, though the true total is guaranteed to be higher. During the 1990s, the Office of the Pima County Medical Examiner dealt with an average of 12 migrant deaths annually. Over an 18-year period beginning in 2000, once prevention through deterrence was humming along, that number rose to 155 per year. According to the medical examiner’s office, 2,943 sets of human remains have been found in southern Arizona from 2000 to the present; a death toll nearly double Ajo’s summer population.
Scott Warren was one of nine volunteers arrested last year for providing support to people crossing the desert. The actual charges range from entering a national wildlife refuge without a permit and abandonment of property (gallons of water) to operating a vehicle in a protected area; misdemeanor offenses and in Scott’s case, “felony harboring.” The first four to go to trial were found guilty in January of this year. From No More Deaths:
A verdict of guilty was issued by Federal Magistrate Judge Bernardo Velasco today, convicting No More Deaths volunteers on all charges. Natalie Hoffman, Oona Holcomb, Madeline Huse, and Zaachila Orozco were charged with entering a national wildlife refuge without a permit and abandonment of property, and Ms. Hoffman was also charged with including operating a motor vehicle in a wilderness area, all misdemeanor offenses.
They were eventually sentenced to 15 months probation and required to pay a $250 fine.
Scott Warren’s trial begins this week. He wrote an article for No More Deaths yesterday in which he offered a view of what is at stake:
My case in particular may set a dangerous precedent, as the government expands its definitions of “transportation” and “harboring.” The smuggling and harboring laws have always been applied selectively: with aggressive prosecutions of “criminal” networks but leniency for big agriculture and other politically powerful industries that employ scores of undocumented laborers. Now, the law may be applied to not only humanitarian aid workers but also to the millions of mixed-status families in the United States. Take, for instance, a family in which one member is undocumented and another member, who is a citizen, is buying the groceries and paying the rent. Would the government call that harboring? If this family were driving to a picnic in the park, would the government call that illegal transportation? Though this possibility would have seemed far-fetched a few years ago, it has become frighteningly real.
You can keep up to date on Scott’s trial and the work of No More Deaths on their website.