A Man On Trial For Having A Heart …

Today, May 29th, begins the trial of Scott Warren in U.S. Court in Arizona.  Scott is a 36-year-old college geography instructor from Ajo, Arizona who was arrested in early 2018 and faces three felony charges.  If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.  What, you ask, did he do?  He gave food and water to people.

Scott works with a group I’ve written about before called No More Deaths or No Mas Muertes.  I will let him tell you his story which was published in The Washington Post yesterday …

Scott-Warren.jpgAfter a dangerous journey across Mexico and a difficult crossing through the Arizona desert, someone told Jose and Kristian that they might find water and food at a place in Ajo called the Barn. The Barn is a gathering place for humanitarian volunteers like me, and there the two young men were able to eat, rest and get medical attention. As the two were preparing to leave, the Border Patrol arrested them. Agents also handcuffed and arrested me, for — in the agency’s words — having provided the two migrants with “food, water, clean clothes and beds.”

Jose and Kristian were detained for several weeks, deposed by the government as material witnesses in its case against me and then deported back to the countries from which they had fled for their lives. This week, the government will try me for human smuggling. If convicted, I may be imprisoned for up to 20 years.

In the Sonoran Desert, the temperature can reach 120 degrees during the day and plummet at night. Water is scarce. Tighter border policies have forced migrants into harsher and more remote territory, and many who attempt to traverse this landscape don’t survive. Along what’s become known as the Ajo corridor, dozens of bodies are found each year; many more are assumed to be undiscovered.

Local residents and volunteers organize hikes into this desert to offer humanitarian aid. We haul jugs of water and buckets filled with canned food, socks, electrolytes and basic first-aid supplies to a few sites along the mountain and canyon paths. Other times, we get a report that someone has gone missing, and our mission becomes search and rescue — or, more often, to recover the bodies and bones of those who have died.

Over the years, humanitarian groups and local residents navigated a coexistence with the Border Patrol. We would meet with agents and inform them of how and where we worked. At times, the Border Patrol sought to cultivate a closer relationship. “Glad you’re out here today,” I remember an agent telling me once. “People really need water.” In a town as small as Ajo, we’re all neighbors, and everybody’s kids go to the same school. Whether it was in the grocery store or out in the field, it was commonplace for residents and volunteers to run into Border Patrol agents and talk.

Those kinds of encounters are rare these days. Government authorities have cracked down on humanitarian aid: denying permits to enter the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, and kicking over and slashing water jugs. They are also aggressively prosecuting volunteers. Several No More Deaths volunteers have faced possible imprisonment and fines of up to $10,000 on federal misdemeanor charges from 2017 including entering a wildlife refuge without a permit and “abandonment of property” — leaving water and cans of beans for migrants. (I face similar misdemeanor charges of “abandonment of property.”)

My case in particular may set a dangerous precedent, as the government expands its definitions of “transportation” and “harboring.” The smuggling and harboring laws have always been applied selectively: with aggressive prosecutions of “criminal” networks but leniency for big agriculture and other politically powerful industries that employ scores of undocumented laborers. Now, the law may be applied to not only humanitarian aid workers but also to the millions of mixed-status families in the United States. Take, for instance, a family in which one member is undocumented and another member, who is a citizen, is buying the groceries and paying the rent. Would the government call that harboring? If this family were driving to a picnic in the park, would the government call that illegal transportation? Though this possibility would have seemed far-fetched a few years ago, it has become frighteningly real.

The Trump administration’s policies — warehousing asylees, separating families, caging children — seek to impose hardship and cruelty. For this strategy to work, it must also stamp out kindness.

To me, the question that emerges from all of this is not whether the prosecution will have a chilling effect on my community and its sense of compassion. The question is whether the government will take seriously its humanitarian obligations to the migrants and refugees who arrive at the border.

In Ajo, my community has provided food and water to those traveling through the desert for decades — for generations. Whatever happens with my trial, the next day, someone will walk in from the desert and knock on someone’s door, and the person who answers will respond to the needs of that traveler. If they are thirsty, we will offer them water; we will not ask for documents beforehand. The government should not make that a crime.

He is right … helping others should not be a crime.  What have we become?

 

44 thoughts on “A Man On Trial For Having A Heart …

  1. Pingback: A Man On Trial For Having A Heart … — Filosofa’s Word – GettingrealwithPTSD

  2. You know, in historical wars, humanitarian aid (by the red Cross or similar) has been allowed in most countries (First and Second World wars).
    The US is not even in a war with its neighbour, Mexico, but the strategies by the Trump administration are increasingly hostile against economic migrants… The latest of course being incredible tariffs placed against Mexico until it stops its own people (likely resulting in atrocities on both sides of the border).
    This is a terrible picture of a country that has become so absorbed with its own greatness, it is willing to cut off trade and social discourse with any other nation or its people.

    This is a deeply troubling situation, and I think if ever Trump can be forced out, the US needs to look seriously at its Constitution. It was historically designed with the idea that whoever led the Government would be honourable, law abiding, a philanthropist and a leader. It did not expect to have to put measures in place (other than Impeachment by a consential vote) to stop the machinations of a mad man.

    Mr Trump is coming to the UK on a State Visit and will likely flout the rules and make lots of people very uncomfortable (including the Queen). The US Embassy staff in London were asked by the UK press, “what measures can you put in place to inform President Trump of what not to do while here?” The pause was telling. The answer even more so. Well not much really, we will just have mitigation strategies for any aftermath to get US – UK relations back on track afterwards.

    That, says it all. Your President does what ever he wants, hurts whoever he wants, kills whoever he wants and lies as much as he likes. And you US citizens have not got off your backsides to stop him (except for readers of Jill’s blog, of course). For Goodness sakes, motivate your electorate to get this administration out of office before Trump destroys you all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hear that his advisors all tried to talk him out of threatening Mexico with tariffs that will hurt the people of both countries, but of course he didn’t listen. The reality is that the immigrants are coming from Central American countries where their lives are in danger. It is not the responsibility of the Mexican government to stop them from crossing into the U.S. You are right about the humanitarian aid, and until recently, the U.S. was known as a nation that opened its arms to those in need, but not so any more. Sadly, the republicans in Congress have sold their consciences downriver and I seriously doubt that impeachment will succeed. The other legal option, Amendment 25, stands absolutely NO chance. So, our best hope is that he choke on one of his Big Macs or that Melania put a pillow over his face while he sleeps some night.

      Yes, I heard about his “state visit” and I also know that nobody wants him over there, and who can blame you guys. Last time he was there, he was such an embarrassment in the way he treated both Ms. May and the Queen that I was surprised he was even invited back. I’m happy, though, to hear that they are making an even bigger blimp with which to greet him. 😉

      Yes, Colette, he is a danger to not only the U.S., but the entire world, and we need to get rid of him. If I knew how to motivate the electorate, I would be doing so. Sigh. Unfortunately, the current government, including Congress, is doing everything in its power to ensure that we will not have a fair election next year, that Russia will likely have even more influence, that gerrymandered districts will be the rule, and that more voters will be disenfranchised. I’m doing all that I know to do, but I am but one person, and a person with very limited energy at the moment. Sigh. Hugs, my friend.

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  3. Hello Jill. I served in the US military and was under the UCMJ. Uniform Code of Military Justice. If I had come upon a person clearly needing assistance and had refused to provide what assistance I could, I would have been charged under this code. When I worked in the ICU of a major hospital I was required to provide what assistance I could regardless of where I was. I am driving down the road here in Florida and see an accident or come across one i was required by law to stop and render assistance. Yet here we have a person doing humanitarian aid, and being punished for it. I wonder if there is an international treaty we are violating with this? As much as some might want to deny it, we do have international treaties that take precedence over our own hateful government. Hugs

    Liked by 2 people

    • You know what I find so unfortunate? Many doctors today will not stop at the scene of an accident they happen upon, for they have become gun shy with every Tom, Dick and Harry suing for everything and nothing. People have even been sued for helping somebody up from a fall. But yes, to your point, I would love to see the U.N. bring Trump to trial for crimes against humanity, for I personally hold him accountable for the deaths of those six migrant children who have died while in the custody of CBP. And tonight I read that there may be as many as 2,000 children being held illegally on the border. Sigh. What the heck sort of nation are we becoming? Hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hello Jill. Did you hear the US pulled out of several UN bodies such as the world court and UN inspectors for humanitarian crimes. The US use to let UN inspectors into the country to check out stuff. tRump stopped that and is now even threatening to veto any UN resolution mentioning rights for LGBTQ and female reproductive healthcare. We are becoming a country run by a crime family who doesn’t want the police looking in the windows and back yard. Hugs

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hey Scottie! I was aware of all except that last … I hadn’t heard that he was threatening to veto any resolution mentioning LGBTQ rights and female reproductive healthcare. What an ass he is. His pulling out of so many things, from the Paris Accords, the Iran nuclear agreement, TPP, and the various UN bodies, as well as revoking the passports of the UN inspectors are all a part of his intent to isolate this nation. His “America First” policy is isolationism … complete isolationism. If he decides to declare himself dictator for life one of these days, who will come to our aid? His denigration of all our allies, while he panders to our enemies is also a part of his isolationist program. Frankly, since impeachment is like watching grass grow and the 25th Amendment ain’t gonna happen, I wish somebody would shoot him and put him out of our misery before it’s too late. And that is not something I say lightly or thought I would ever say. 😥 Hugs!!!

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Incredibly sad. Think about what children are learning when they see compassion punished as a criminal act. I used to be proud of our country. These shameful actions are sickening.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Ironically no good deed goes unpunished as the saying goes. Sad part is Trump’s administration has stacked so many conservative judges on the local level, poor Mr. Warren will get the full 20 yrs as a scapegoat to deter compassionate ppl from providing aid. Very sad.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Impeach Trump NOW. We must do what’s right even though GOP Senators will almost surely block impeachment. Then, if American voters re-elect Trump next year, may God or Fate have mercy on our blindness, as this time we will have no excuse for our continued descent into darkness.

    Liked by 3 people

    • There is no doubt that the Senate would not convict, but my more immediate concern is that I don’t think, under the present circumstances, the House could get the required 2/3 majority to impeach, which would give Trump his ‘victim card’, and you know he would play it for all it’s worth. I think the process of impeachment does need to be started, but the only way enough republicans in the House will vote for it is if there is immutable evidence of something so wrong that nobody can find a way to defend it. That may well come from his financial records, tax returns, or testimony by Don McGahn and others, but I don’t think we’re there yet. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Good points, Jill. But at least there is one Republican Congressman, Justin Amash of Michigan (see my latest comment on the May 29 DONALD DUCKS FOR COVER post on my blog).who is calling for Trump to be impeached. Hopefully the forthcoming additional evidence and testimony you cite will convince a sufficient number of Amash’s GOP colleagues to join him in doing the right thing.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I think that is the first time I’ve checked out your blog (I never have time to do all I would like, even though I only waste 3-4 hours a night sleeping!), but I love your sense of humour! I’ll be back! As re Amash … I left a comment on your post.

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          • Thanks, Jill. I thought I was sleep-deprived by getting only 5-6 hours a night sleeping, but you have me ‘beat.’ Since I retired years ago, it seems I have less time than ever to do everything I want to do. Maybe I need to go back to work in order to find more time to sleep.

            Liked by 1 person

            • You are the first person who has ever echoed my sentiments word-for-word!!! I retired in 2008, and I’m always saying that I don’t know how I ever found time to work 10-12 hours a day, for now I’m busier than I’ve ever been! The difference is that now I’m mostly doing the things I enjoy doing! 😊

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  7. ARE WE HUMAN — OR ARE WE VERMIN?

    DO WE HELP THOSE IN NEED — OR DO WE MAKE THEM SUFFER AND DIE?

    IS TRUMP A WHITE SAVIOR — OR AN ORANGE PRICK?

    LISTEN TO TRUMP AND WIND UP IN HELL —
    OR LISTEN TO YOUR HEART AND BE UNAFRAID TO DIE!

    Liked by 4 people

  8. “For this strategy to work, it must also stamp out kindness.” Such a chilling sentence. My mind went back to other times, such as those helping European Jews in the 1930s and helping slaves escape.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, it is. Many things of late remind me of Europe in the 1930s, and yes, of the era of slavery here, where people were judged and demonized based on the colour of their skin, or their ethnicity. We never learn, do we?

      Liked by 1 person

    • In my book, Trump is responsible for the deaths of the six children who have died in the custody of Customs and Border “Protection”, as well as the people who are dying of thirst and starvation while seeking a safe haven. This nation was founded by immigrants, welcomed people from other nations and of other cultures. Now, all of a sudden, Trump has demonized them. To arrest people for helping other people is simply unconscionable. Yes, Trump should answer for his crimes against humanity, but you and I both know he won’t ever be held accountable. Sigh.
      Cwtch

      Liked by 2 people

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