An activist who works with a humanitarian group that offers water and shelter to migrants crossing the U.S. border and the hot deserts of Arizona is facing up to 20 years in prison after prosecutors claim that he was harboring illegal aliens.
As Al Jazeera noted, activist Scott Warren is facing trial for what is seen as a groundbreaking case that might determine what kind of help U.S. citizens can offer to undocumented immigrants. Warren was arrested in January 2018 in a desolate area of Arizona, after officials found two migrants hiding in the shower of a makeshift building that humanitarian groups had constructed to help those crossing the border.
Warren works with a faith-based group called No More Deaths that offers water and medical aid to migrants crossing the U.S. border in Arizona, where temperatures can rise well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. As the report noted, more than 3,000 migrants have died in this rugged corridor since 2001.
This work has often put the group at odds with Border Patrol, and the day Warren was arrested, his group had published a video showing agents dumping out jugs of water that had been left in the desert for migrants passing through. Warren’s lawyer said his arrest was in retaliation for the video.
Officials alleged that Warren was helping to hide the undocumented immigrants. As the report noted, his arrest came after then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions called for a crackdown on those who harbored migrants, as part of the controversial “zero tolerance” policy that also led to migrant children being taken from their parents and placed in detention centers.
During Warren’s trial this week, Border Patrol agents John Marquez and Brendan Burns testified that they watched through binoculars as Warren made gestures that they believed showed him helping the migrants evade detection from U.S. officials, the Tucson Sentinel reported.
Dr. Scott Warren faces up to 20 years in prison for giving food and water to migrants in the desert. Acts of kindness like this must not be criminalized! Stand with @Amnesty & @NoMoreDeaths and tell @USAO_AZ – humanitarian aid is never a crime! https://t.co/G5MHBrvUn1 pic.twitter.com/qx6fdlNdXF
— Amnesty Ireland (@AmnestyIreland) May 29, 2019
— New York Times Opinion (@nytopinion) June 1, 2019
“During his testimony, Burns said that he saw Warren point out three landmarks that would make it easier for someone to hike out and circumvent a Border Patrol checkpoint on Highway 85 north of Ajo. Burns said that Warren pointed to Child’s Mountain, which is marked by antennas and red lights at night, as well as Batamote Peak, and Hat Mountain,” the report noted.
U.S. Border Patrol agents also came under scrutiny during the trial. During the investigation, Burns had texted another agent to notify that there were “two toncs at the house,” using what many call a racially charged term. During his cross-examination, Marquez admitted that the term can refer to the sound a flashlight makes when hitting a person’s skull.