No More Deaths
No More Deaths is an advocacy group based in Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona, United States, that seeks to end the deaths of undocumented immigrants crossing the desert regions near the United States-Mexico border. Volunteers for the organization provide food, water, and medical aid to people crossing the US-Mexico border through the Arizona desert and offer humanitarian aid to people in Mexico who have been deported from the US.
No More Deaths was founded in 2004 by area religious leaders, including Catholic bishop Gerald Kicanas, Presbyterian minister John Fife, and leaders of the local Jewish community. The founders felt that there was a need for a constant presence on the border to aid migrants and end the increasing numbers of immigrant deaths. The Pima County Medical Examiner's Office recovered the bodies of an average of 160 migrants per year between 2000 and 2005, up from 14 per year in the 1990s. The founders of No More Deaths cite Operation Gatekeeper as a major cause of the spike in deaths.
The organization was structured as an umbrella group to consolidate and expand upon the humanitarian aid work already being provided by other groups like the Samaritans, Humane Borders, and various faith-based organizations and led by a local Unitarian Universalist Church. The group began by organizing driving patrols through the Sonoran Desert of Arizona to look for migrants who might be in need of water or medical attention. In the summer of 2004, the group also set up camps called "Arks of the Covenant" to provide a permanent presence during the hottest months of summer. The camps are staffed with volunteers who go on daily driving and foot patrols in areas known to be used by illegal immigrants.
No More Deaths volunteers staff migrant centers in northern Mexico to provide aid to undocumented immigrants who have recently been deported or repatriated by the Border Patrol. The centers are located in Nogales and Agua Prieta, Sonora, just across the border from Nogales and Douglas, Arizona, respectively. Members of No More Deaths and the immigrant rights group Coalición de Derechos Humanos/Alianza Indígena Sin Fronteras signed an "agreement of hospitality" with the Mexican government in July 2006 that allows the groups to provide aid to migrants on the Mexican side of the border.
Compiling human rights violations
No More Deaths trains volunteers to document what they see as human rights violations by immigration officials. The group claims that it often encounters migrants who have been denied food, water, and medical attention, have been separated from family members, and have suffered physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
Prosecution of No More Deaths Volunteers
Daniel Strauss and Shanti Sellz
On July 9, 2005, two No More Deaths volunteers, Daniel Strauss and Shanti Sellz, were arrested by a Border Patrol agent while transporting three immigrants from the Arivaca "Ark" to Tucson for medical attention. The migrants were allegedly suffering from severe thirst and hunger due to vomiting as well as blisters that prevented them from walking. Sellz and Strauss were charged with transporting migrants and conspiring to transport migrants, both felonies under US federal law. If convicted, they would have each faced up to 15 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. Lawyers for the defendants argued that the aid workers were not transporting the immigrants "in furtherance" of their being in the country illegally, and therefore were not guilty of smuggling. US Magistrate Bernardo P. Velasco disagreed and refused to dismiss the case.
No More Deaths responded with a campaign called "Humanitarian Aid is Never a Crime" to raise awareness about the case and persuade Judge Raner C. Collins to overrule Velasco and drop all charges. They distributed hundreds of bumper stickers and yard signs to supporters, and over 5,600 people (including the Episcopal Bishop of Arizona) signed a petition in support of the two humanitarian aid workers.
Judge Collins dismissed all of the charges against Sellz and Strauss on September 1, 2006. The judge stated that at the time of their arrest, the two volunteers were following a protocol that had been previously established by the US Border Patrol and No More Deaths. Judge Collins stated that Sellz and Strauss had made an effort to ensure that their actions were lawful, and that “further prosecution would violate the Defendants’ due process rights.”
On April 22, 2007, Sellz and Strauss were awarded the Óscar Romero Award for Human Rights for their work with No More Deaths. The $20,000 award, presented by the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas, is "presented periodically to persons or organizations who distinguish themselves by their courage and integrity in defense of human rights." The two human rights workers each accepted $5,000 and gave the remaining $10,000 to No More Deaths.
On September 3, 2010, the littering conviction of Daniel Millis, for leaving water bottles in 2008 for immigrants crossing through a desert wildlife preserve was overturned by a 2-1 appeals court decision.
In 2018 migrants were in the news as President Trump threatened to send the U.S. military to close the border and stop the Central American migrant caravans. On January 17, 2018, Scott Warren, a volunteer with No More Deaths, was arrested and charged with a felony for harboring migrants after Border Patrol allegedly witnessed him giving food and water to two migrants in the west desert near Cabeza Prieta. Initially he was charged with a felony and faced five years in prison. During the trial in federal court, three felony charges were brought against him: two counts of harboring undocumented migrants and one count of conspiracy to transport and harbor them at a structure in Ajo at a staging area for humanitarian aid efforts which is known as “The Barn.” If convicted on all counts, he could spend up to 20 years in prison. His arrest came only hours after No More Deaths published a report criticizing actions of Border Patrol and accusing them of destroying humanitarian supplies in the desert. Together with Warren, more volunteers were charged by the authorities. Trail information about the investigation that led to his arrest was unavailable to reporters until an action was brought for its release. His trial ended on June 12, 2019 with a hung jury after three days of deliberation. On July 2, federal prosecutors announced that they would retry him.
- Water Station, a charitable organization providing water to people in Southern California desert areas
- "No More Deaths Homepage". Archived from the original on April 3, 2007. Retrieved March 22, 2007.
- "A Humanitarian Crisis at the Border: New Estimates of Deaths Among Unauthorized Immigrants" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on April 23, 2013. Retrieved March 24, 2010.
- Kuruvilla, Carol (August 6, 2018). "Volunteers Say They're Being Targeted For Leaving Water To Help Migrants". HuffPost. Retrieved June 12, 2019.
- "History and Mission of No More Deaths". Archived from the original on June 11, 2010. Retrieved March 24, 2010.
- "Mexico will let Tucson-based groups offer aid to migrants south of border". Archived from the original on April 27, 2007. Retrieved March 22, 2007.
- "Abuse Documentation and Custody Standards". Archived from the original on June 11, 2010. Retrieved March 24, 2010.
- "Background on Prosecution of Daniel Strauss and Shanti Sellz". Archived from the original on August 31, 2006. Retrieved March 22, 2007.
- "2 arrested for aiding migrants cleared". Archived from the original on February 5, 2013. Retrieved March 22, 2007.
- "Episcopal bishop joins migrant-aid prosecution protest". Archived from the original on February 14, 2007. Retrieved March 22, 2007.
- "Immigrant Rights Victory in Arizona". Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved March 24, 2010.
- The 2007 Oscar Romero Award Archived 2007-04-29 at the Wayback Machine
- Williams, Carol J. (September 3, 2010). "Border activist's littering conviction is overturned". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on November 7, 2014. Retrieved October 15, 2014.
- "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. DANIEL J. MILLIS" (pdf). United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Archived (PDF) from the original on October 11, 2010.
- "As Caravan Of Migrants Heads North, Trump Threatens To Close Southern U.S. Border". NPR. Archived from the original on 22 October 2018. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
- "Volunteer arrested after giving food, water to undocumented immigrants". NBC News. Archived from the original on March 18, 2018. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
- Quinn, Carrot (January 26, 2018). "Why was this man arrested for giving water to migrants crossing the border?". The Guardian. Archived from the original on March 18, 2018. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
- Prendergast, Curt (June 12, 2019). "Jury deadlocks 8-4 for acquittal in trial of border-aid worker Scott Warren". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
- Karas, Tania (June 6, 2019). "Crimes of compassion: US follows Europe's lead in prosecuting those who help migrants". Public Radio International. Retrieved June 7, 2019.
- "Disappeared: How US Border Enforcement Agencies Are Fueling a Missing Persons Crisis". The Disappeared Report. Archived from the original on March 17, 2018. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
- Shuham, Matt (June 12, 2019). "Mistrial For Border Volunteer Charged With Felonies For Aiding Migrants". Talking Points Memo.
- "ASU Law School Helps Journalist Gain Access To Scott Warren Trial Documents". KJZZ. September 10, 2019. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
- "Activist arrested for giving migrants food and shelter faces retrial". The Guardian. July 2, 2019.