15 June 2009
BORDERLANDS: CPT reservist and other volunteers leaving water for migrants face littering charges.
by John Heid
"I was thirsty and you gave me drink.” (Mt 25:35)
Tucson, Arizona On 1 June 2009, CPT Reservist John Heid and two other companions placed three-dozen gallons of water on an active migrant trail in Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (BANWR), southwest of Tucson, Arizona. The three were confronted by a Fish and Wildlife officer, escorted out of the area, and face possible prosecution for littering.
A U.S. Border Patrol helicopter crew spotted the three shortly after they began putting out the water and hovered over them for the next hour. Eventually a Border Patrol agent, armed with an M-16 assault rifle, sprinted down the trail to warn the group that the placement of such containers was a violation of law. The agent then departed (Border Patrol agents do not have authorization to issue citations.) The three continued their work for nearly an hour under constant low-flying helicopter surveillance before encountering a U.S. Fish and Wildlife law enforcement officer, who collected contact information and escorted them off the Refuge. He explained that a determination to prosecute the three would be made within the coming weeks.
The date marked the beginning of the most lethal month of the year in the Tucson Sector of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. One hundred degree days become the deadly norm. This year, migrants crossing this desert are dying at a record rate; eighty-nine bodies have been recovered to date, eight of these from the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (BANWR).
Also on 1 June, a volunteer from No More Deaths faced criminal misdemeanor charges of "knowingly littering" in U.S. District Court in Tucson. He had placed containers of water on an active migrant trail in BANWR last December. (See www.nomoredeaths.org.) On 3 June, a jury found the No More Deaths volunteer guilty of the misdemeanor "knowingly littering.” He faces one year in prison and a $10,000 fine. Sentencing will occur on 11 August 2009.
Humanitarians working with No More Deaths had decided by consensus to renew a regular water drop schedule in BANWR, after taking a hiatus when U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents first began issuing tickets for littering in February 2008.