Man Who Helped Immigrants NOT DIE Not Guilty Of Helping Immigrants NOT DIE
Dr. Scott Warren is a humanitarian and Arizona border activist. He was arrested, charged with a felony, and put on trial -- twice -- for being a good person.
His crimes? Literally saving lives. Warren was charged with two felony counts of harboring illegal immigrants for giving food, water, and temporary shelter to two migrants in the Arizona desert.
For saving two lives, Warren faced up to 20 years in prison.
Thankfully, the jurors weren't buying what the Trump prosecutors were selling, and the 12-person jury came back quickly with its verdict of not guilty on all counts.
As Laurie Roberts wrote for the Arizona Republic:
Fortunately, there are some things that endure, even in the Trump era.
Things like faith and hope and the ability to offer a cup of water to a thirsty man.
Warren was charged with a crime for WHAT?!
Everything about this prosecution -- with the sole exception of Warren's acquittal -- is, to use some legalese, incredibly fucked up.
This wasn't even the first time the feds put Warren on trial for his good deeds. His June trial on the same charges ended in a hung jury.
Warren is a volunteer with the nonprofit No More Deaths, a ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson that helps migrants who are in medical distress and puts water jugs in the desert. In January 2018, Warren and other volunteers helped save the lives of two Central American men who came to No More Deaths' desert aid station in Aio, Arizona. Warren gave the men food and water and let them rest for a few days. And, according to federal prosecutors, that's a crime.
On the day in question, Warren followed the guidelines No More Deaths gives its volunteers. The two men arrived at the facility, called The Barn, while Warren was out getting groceries for the volunteers. The men told Warren that they had been walking through the desert for two days and were tired and hungry. In the last two days, all they had to eat and drink was one soft drink and burrito, which they split between them. One of the men hadn't urinated in 12 hours and had a cough and blisters. The other man had similar symptoms and chest pains.
Warren gave the men water, told them to stay off their feet for a while, and called a nurse. He shared dinner with the two men. Then he called a doctor, who told him the men needed water and should be monitored by the volunteers.
The area the men had walked through for two days is a particularly nasty stretch of desert between Sonoyta, Mexico, and Ajo, Arizona. After Warren's first trial, he pointed out:
In the time since I was arrested in January 2018, no fewer than 88 bodies were recovered from the Arizona desert. The government's plan in the midst of this humanitarian crisis? Policies to target undocumented people, refugees and their families. Prosecutions to criminalize humanitarian aid, kindness and solidarity.
HOW IS THAT A CRIME?!
It's not. And the fact that federal prosecutors tried to argue that saving lives is a crime shows just how morally bankrupt we are as a country.
The laws Warren was charged under are primarily used against human traffickers and smugglers who make money transporting migrants across the border. But the racists in the Trump regime have made it very clear that don't care if brown immigrants live or die. From banning refugees to attacking asylum laws to deaths in immigration custody to charging humanitarians with crimes for saving lives, Trump and his cronies have, time and time again, made their malice clear.
Thankfully, yesterday, justice prevailed.
As Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, said:
Sense has prevailed today with the jury exonerating Dr. Scott Warren for a simple reason: humanitarian aid is never a crime.
It's obviously right that Warren was acquitted. But the fact remains that he never should have been charged in the first place. And it's important to recognize that, although Warren's acquittal is something to celebrate, just being charged with a crime can ruin a person's life.
For people who lack the resources to pay bail, a criminal charge -- even one resulting in acquittal -- can result in months of jail time. Even an arrest and a charge that is quickly dropped by prosecutors can force a person to miss work, lose their job, and end up on the street.
Thankfully, Dr. Warren faced no such circumstances. But there is still no doubt that these charges upended his life.
Warren was first arrested nearly two years ago. In that time, he had to invest time and money in his legal defense. He had to go through each day with the anxiety of knowing he could spend the next two decades in a federal penitentiary. He had to endure two felony trials.
As noted by journalist Josie Duffy Rice, an acquittal from felony charges is a very serious thing, indeed, for a person to have to deal with.
As Duffy Rice notes, despite Warren's acquittal, federal prosecutors already achieved some of their goals. They have made a public declaration that people will be charged with crimes for trying to save lives. They have scared others who might be inclined to help, in a place where migrants die of exposure and dehydration every year.
More than that, Warren isn't the only humanitarian facing criminal charges for trying to save help people and save lives. Eight other volunteers with No More Deaths have been charged with federal crimes.
As for No More Deaths, they're continuing their lifesaving work on the US-Mexico border.
You can go to their website to learn more about their work, volunteer, or donate money or supplies.
On Tuesday, justice prevailed. But we still have a long way to go.