Scott Warren was arrested after he helped migrants – but he’s a humanitarian aid worker trying to save lives in a place where so many find death.
Cabeza Prieta national wildlife refuge, which includes 56 miles of Sonoran Desert along the US-Mexico border, is a stunningly beautiful wilderness. There are saguaros, endangered Sonoran pronghorn, petroglyphs, and jagged mountain ranges.
It is also where in the past year alone, humanitarian workers have discovered the bodies of 32 people.
These remains were found by volunteers from No More Deaths and other humanitarian aid organizations that work to reduce deaths and suffering along the US-Mexico border.
If you go to Cabeza Prieta and walk along its arroyos, chances are you’ll find human remains too. While volunteering for No More Deaths, I’ve come across scattered rib bones, a femur, and a skull resting beneath a mesquite tree, 10 shades whiter than anything else around it.
On 17 January, No More Deaths released a report documenting the systematic destruction by border patrol of water and food supplies left in the desert for migrants.
Over a nearly four-year period, 3,856 gallons of water had been destroyed. The report linked to video showing border patrol kicking over gallons and pouring them out onto the ground.
Hours after the report was released, Scott Warren, a volunteer with No More Deaths, was arrested and charged with a felony for harboring migrants after Border Patrol allegedly witnessed him giving food and water to two migrants in the west desert near Cabeza Prieta.
In the summer of 2017, eight volunteers were charged with federal misdemeanors related to No More Deaths providing humanitarian aid in this area. Many more volunteers had their permits to Cabeza Prieta revoked indefinitely.
Around the same time, a new clause appeared on the permit application for access to Cabeza Prieta. Clause 13 states that the holder of the permit will not leave food or water in the desert, effectively preventing humanitarian aid in Cabeza Prieta entirely.
If convicted, he could face five years in prison.