Saturday, July 26, 2008

Border activist on trial for leaving drinking water for migrants

Here's the press release at No More Border Deaths (h/t Americas MexicoBlog):
The trial is this Friday, July 25, at 9:30 a.m., at the DeConcini federal courthouse, 405 W. Congress, in Tucson. A press conference will be held in front of the courthouse at noon or immediately following the trial.

Millis and three other humanitarian aid volunteers were picking up trash and leaving jugs of drinking water along border trails in Brown Canyon north of Sasabe on February 22, 2008, when they were confronted by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement. Officers informed volunteers that they could neither leave water nor recover trash without proper permits, and Millis was presented with a $175 ticket for littering.

“I didn't pay the ticket because I'm not guilty,” says Millis. “Littering is a crime, humanitarian aid is not.”

Millis, a volunteer with No More Deaths since 2005, has previously brought groups of high school students to the border to pick up trash. He coordinated an educational partnership with the Leave No Trace program and currently coordinates No More Deaths' participation in the Pima County Adopt-a-Roadway program.

“I felt especially compelled to leave drinking water out that day, because only two days earlier I found the body of a young girl in the desert. She was only fourteen,” states Millis. “It was heartbreaking.”

238 migrants were found dead in the Arizona borderlands during the 2007 fiscal year. During the summer of 2007, No More Deaths encountered 388 migrants along the Arizona – Mexico border, including twenty seven women, fourteen children, and one pregnant seventeen-year-old. Many required serious medical attention. No More Deaths has been working to provide humanitarian aid to people along the border since 2004, including the Brown Canyon area where Millis was cited.

“The Samaritans and No More Deaths have been working in Brown Canyon for several years. We've never had a problem like this before,” says Millis.

No More Deaths is concerned that vandalism and confiscation of life-saving water and other humanitarian aid supplies is an egregious offense that is becoming too common in the Arizona desert. U.S. government policies of walling people into the remotest deserts, continuing human rights abuses, and impeding attempts at direct relief are unjust and need to be stopped.

Southside Presbyterian Church Pastor Emeritus and No More Deaths co-founder John Fife states, “Regardless of the outcome of this trial, we're going to continue our humanitarian aid work whenever and wherever it is needed, until there are no more deaths in the desert.”
I haven't seen any news on how the trial is proceeding or its outcome. Far too many people die each year along La Frontera, as my friend Manny has been reminding his readers for quite a while. The indifference toward human life is beyond shocking, I'm afraid.

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