For the past 15 years, an organization based in Southern Arizona has been trying to prevent the senseless deaths of undocumented immigrants attempting to cross the U.S./Mexico border. No More Deaths is a grassroots volunteer group that works year-round, leaving water and food in the desert terrain for the benefit of people who are struggling to enter the U.S. They also have a free legal clinic in Tucson. Their volunteerism is saving lives, but their work may soon be over.
On Jan. 18, an Arizona judge convicted four female volunteers on misdemeanor charges because they left food and supplies in a restricted area where undocumented immigrants try to enter the U.S.
CREDIT: Facebook/No More Deaths/No Más Muertes
The women — Oona Holcomb, Madeline Huse, Zaachila Orozco-McCormick, and Natalie Hoffman — all volunteers with No More Deaths, were arrested on Aug. 13, 2017, by a Federal Wildlife officer because they left items at the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge.
According to The Washington Post, prosecutors claimed that the women had violated federal law by entering the wildlife refuge. U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernardo Velasco said the women were wrong in thinking they would not be prosecuted for their crimes and believed they’d only be “banned or fined.” He said, according to the publication the women violated “the national decision to maintain the Refuge in its pristine nature.”
“This verdict challenges not only No More Deaths volunteers but people of conscience throughout the country,” Catherine Gaffney, a volunteer with the organization said, according to Twitter. “If giving water to someone dying of thirst is illegal, what humanity is left in the law of this country?”
The women face up to six months in federal prison and a fine of up to $500. Five other volunteers are still awaiting their trial later next month.
In response to the judge’s ruling, people held a “vibrant noise demonstration” outside Eloy Detention Center in Arizona, which is one of the most controversial detention centers due to deaths that have taken place inside.
“We wanted those inside to know we see them, that we know they resist, that they are not forgotten,” a volunteer tweeted.
According to No More Deaths, since 2001, 155 people have died crossing the border in the area of south of Ajo, Arizona.
Last year, police also arrested Scott Daniel Warren for leaving water and food in the same area. Volunteers said that he was arrested in retaliation because they had released a video, which went viral, showing Border Patrol agents dumping water left behind for the migrants.