Border Agents Would Rather Migrants Die Than Let Them Have Food and Water as They Cross the Desert

Bottles of water left for migrants crossing the Sonoran desert
Screenshot: Democracy Now

Last week during his Oval Office confessional, Donald Trump asserted that there is a humanitarian crisis at the U.S./Mexico border.

While what Trump actually considers to be a humanitarian crisis is up for debate, there are in fact problems at our border that emphasize the way the United States continues to dehumanize those who come across our borders seeking a life that is different than the one they are leaving behind. Not only are they dehumanizing the migrants, but they are criminalizing those who try to help them.

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On Tuesday, Democracy Now interviewed Paige Corich-Kleim—a humanitarian aid worker and volunteer with No More Deaths in Tuscon, Ariz.

Corich-Kleim told Democracy Now that her organization tries to prevent migrant deaths by leaving food, water, blankets and other supplies for migrants who are making the dangerous trek across the Sonoran Desert. The response to their efforts was land managers adding a clause in their permit application prohibiting volunteers from leaving food, water, water containers, food containers, blankets, medical supplies or anything else that may assist migrants making their way to the U.S.

In January 2018, No More Deaths released a report (pdf) that accused U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents of destroying water, canned foods and other humanitarian supplies that had been left along the way to the U.S. border in the Sonoran Desert.

Hours after their report was released, No More Deaths volunteer Scott Daniel Warren was arrested and charged with a range of felonies because he was seen giving migrants shelter and providing them with food and water. Warren now faces 20 years in prison if he is convicted.

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On Tuesday, the trial began for four of nine total defendants facing federal misdemeanor charges for entering the Cabeza Prieta wildlife refuge without a permit, driving on a wildlife refuge and abandoning property. Warren is one of those nine defendants, but his misdemeanor case will be heard in February. A date for trial has not been set for his felony charge. The remaining four defendants will have their cases heard in March.

In their report, No More Deaths provided photographs of border agents actually dumping water out of containers that had been left for migrants. Other photos showed water jugs slashed, rendering them unusable. Cans of food left for the migrants were purposely cut open so that the food inside of them would spoil.

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No More Deaths collected data from 2012 to 2015 and found that at least 3,586 gallon jugs of water were destroyed in an 800-square-mile desert corridor near Arivaca, Ariz.

They also accused Border Patrol agents of routinely harassing, surveilling and intimidating humanitarian-aid volunteers, making it harder for them to help the migrants crossing the desert.

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Is this really the legacy and the reputation the U.S. wants to have globally? Are we really criminalizing humanitarian efforts and willing to let migrants die simply to prove a point about crossing the border with documentation?

This is both egregious and immoral, and needs to be stopped.

Regardless of where you stand on the issue of immigration, there is no way anyone can condone causing the otherwise preventable deaths of people who may be seeking asylum or just a better way of life.

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And I feel the need to remind white people once again—you were foreigners when you got here. How dare you act like the way you got here—and what you did once you arrived—is somehow better than what is happening now.

This country sinks more and more into pure depravity every single day.

When will it end?

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About the author

Monique Judge

News Editor for The Root. I said what I said. Period.