After four humanitarian aid workers from No More Deaths were convicted and face six months in federal prison for leaving water and canned food in the desert to prevent migrants from dying, five more people are on trial this month and March facing similar charges
Recently in Arizona, U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernardo Velasco convicted four women of violating federal law for leaving water jugs and canned food in the Cabeza Prieta desert during the summer of 2017, when temperatures reached triple digits. The four women were charged with misdemeanor crimes that included entering a protected refuge without a permit, leaving personal property, and driving in a restricted area.
Catherine Gaffney, a volunteer for No More Deaths, responded to the verdict by asking, “If giving water to someone dying of thirst is illegal, what humanity is left in the law of this country?”
The verdict was handed down during the government shutdown, over the funding of a southern border wall, and at a time when tensions between humanitarian groups, ICE, and border security are high. Aid workers believe that their advocacy and humanitarian efforts are being criminalized under the Trump administration.
Humanitarian organizations, such as No More Deaths, are trying to prevent migrants from dying from over-exposure and dehydration in the desert on their trek north. The organization Humane Borders estimates that more than 3,000 migrants have died since 1999. Last year alone, 127 migrants died in the Arizona desert. One of the convicted humanitarian workers, Zaachila Orozco-McCormick, compared the Cabeza Prieta refuge to a graveyard because of the number of bodies found there.
The four women are facing up to six months in federal prison while five others will be tried this month and March.
Media Resources: Washington Post 1/20/19; 1/27/19