Four of the nine volunteers working with the aid group No More Deaths are set to stand trial over exhibiting common decency to migrants near the U.S.-Mexico border.
After four workers were convicted of misdemeanor charges for leaving food and water for migrants crossing in 2017, four more are set to stand trial over similar charges between now and March, according to the group. The volunteers were charged with federal misdemeanor charges for entering Arizona’s Cabeza Prieta Refuge and Wilderness Area without a permit, driving on a wildlife refuge and abandoning property. Each faces a $500 fine and up to six months in prison.
Dr. Scott Warren, a ninth worker, also faces felony charges for providing food, water, beds, and clothing to two undocumented immigrants in 2018. He faces up to 20 years in prison.
Friday, during the District Court’s decision, judge Bernardo Velasco made it clear the the group lacked the requisite permits to enter the Cabeza Prieta. nor did they behave according to the law once they arrived.
Remarking that the refuge is “littered with unexploded military ordinances” Velasco said that No More Deaths’ undertaking would “erode the national decision to maintain the Refuge in its pristine nature.”
Last year, the group posted video of border patrol agents emptying water bottles left for migrants.
In a statement, No More Deaths noted the vast landscape of the Cabeza Prieta, where “155 border crossers are known to have died since 2001 and countless more have gone missing,” according to the group.
Noting that “no one in charge of No More Deaths ever informed them that their conduct could be prosecuted as a criminal defense,” Velasco’s decision stated that the refuge’s police officer could have simply reprimanded or banned the volunteers from re-entry. In this case, however, both the DOJ and the Department of Interior authorized their prosecution.