Border Patrol yet again targeted the humanitarian group that provides lifesaving aid to migrants in the desert along the southern border, No More Deaths said in a statement received by Daily Kos. The humanitarian medical group, which provides water and other help to migrants in crisis, said that border agents on horseback surrounded the camp on the day before Christmas Eve to harass volunteers and tell them that they were obtaining a warrant to again raid the medical camp.
The organization said in an email update several days later that agents had apparently backed down from the threat, and “ceased visible surveillance of No More Death’s humanitarian aid camp.” But knowing Border Patrol’s years-long vendetta against the humanitarian organization, it’s no reassurance the harassment is over. “Had agents had raided the camp, it would have been the third incursion into the camp near Arivaca, Ariz. in the past five months,” Tucson Sentinel said.
“In July and October, Border Patrol conducted nighttime raids of Byrd Camp, descending on camp with armored tanks, ATVS, a helicopter, and many marked and unmarked vehicles and arresting over 50 people,” No More Deaths said in the release. Among the agents who helped carry out at least one of those raids were members of BORTAC, the same tactical unit that kidnapped demonstrators off the street in Portland, Oregon, earlier this year.
The federal government has also targeted individual volunteers with the organization, among them Scott Daniel Warren, who federal prosecutors repeatedly tried to convict and imprison on felony charges of harboring undocumented immigrants. That mission, thankfully, failed. “The not guilty verdict came after just 2.5 hours of deliberation,” the Arizona Daily Star reported last year, “and it was greeted with cheering, laughter and tears from Warren’s supporters and fellow aid workers, including a contingent of clergy members from across the country.”
A good deal (if not all) of Border Patrol’s vendetta comes from No More Deaths trying to hold it accountable for its evil abuses: Warren’s initial arrest came after the humanitarian organization released a devastating report that included footage of border agents trying to kill migrants by gleefully destroying some of the lifesaving jugs of water left by volunteers in the desert.
The out-of-control agency is still trying to kill migrants. “These raids are designed to drive migrants in need of lifesaving care away from the humanitarian aid station, making the desert even more deadly,” No More Deaths said in its initial release. “The criminalization of migration and humanitarian aid has deadly consequences. According to the Pima County Medical Examiner, 225 bodies have been recovered this year in the desert, up from 144 last year. 3,365 bodies have been recovered since 2001.”
“No amount of reform can change an agency that continuously targets people seeking humanitarian aid with violent military-style force, especially on the eve of a holiday meant to celebrate hospitality towards travelers from distant lands,” volunteer Montana Thames said in the statement. “These actions are simply a continuation of the violent practices Border Patrol uses to terrorize those crossing the desert daily. They must be defunded.”
“Despite pressure by Border Patrol, No More Deaths will continue to provide food, water, and medical care to those crossing the desert,” the organization added. And here’s another reminder for the agency as well: Humanitarian aid is not a crime.
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