Eight activists have been charged with federal crimes after being caught leaving water and blankets for illegal immigrants along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The volunteers were all members of the faith- and community-based organization ‘No More Deaths.’ Appearing in court on Tuesday, the group was charged with a series of offenses, ranging from driving in a wilderness area to entering a wildlife refuge without a permit.
Among the charges was abandonment of property – likely a stab at the group’s activities leaving water, food and blankets along trails frequented by illegal immigrants.
The charges, writes British publication The Guardian, come just after No More Deaths published a damning report against the U.S. Border Patrol. Activists claim that the agency routinely sabotages water containers and supplies left in the field, effectively contributing to the deaths of migrants.
On top of that, the humanitarians say they’re regularly harassed by Border Patrol officers.
The claims bear some credence – less than an hour after the report went live, 35-year old activist Scott Warren was detained and charged with the felony harboring of two undocumented immigrants. While No More Deaths didn’t accuse the Border Patrol of retaliation, it did put two and two together, noting the timing of the arrest seemed suspect.
“The charges also come during a nationwide crackdown on immigrant rights organizers, while the Trump administration seeks to end DACA, and increase deportations, potentially forcing thousands more into the dangerous desert journey,” wrote the group in a statement last Wednesday.
BREAKING: Just hours after No More Death’s released our report on Border Patrol’s interference with life-saving humanitarian aid, the US Border Patrol arrested Scott Warren, a humanitarian aid provider, and two individuals receiving humanitarian aid. pic.twitter.com/eff5Tt6Z2z
— No More Deaths (@NoMoreDeaths) January 22, 2018
No More Deaths’ claims aren’t unbelievable, either.
The Pima County’s medical examiner says around 32 sets of human remains were found in the Cabeza Prieta national wildlife refuge last year alone. Covering 800,000 acres of remote desert along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona, the reserve has few natural water resources.
Activists with No More Deaths note that immigrants attempting the crossing are normally advised to drink between five and 12 liters of water per day. Few, however, manage to carry more than seven liters, though the trip can take weeks to complete.
Between 2012 and 2015, the group says, water supplies left for migrants were vandalized a total of 415 times – on average, twice per week. They say border patrol agents are the main culprits and have video records and other evidence to prove it.
Despite the claims, the Border Patrol insists it doesn’t condone vandalism and stressed that its rescue beacons and patrols often save lives.