WATCH: Feds Crack Down on Volunteers Helping Migrants Survive the Arizona Desert

By Jorge Rivas Aug 14, 2018

Nine humanitarian volunteers with the group No More Deaths are facing federal charges after leaving water bottles for migrants in the Arizona desert. They are charged with misdemeanors for driving in a wilderness area, entering a wildlife refuge without a permit and abandonment of property.

“The misdemeanor for abandonment of property was for leaving life-saving gallons of water, cans of beans, food, socks [and] blankets in areas of the desert—one of the deadliest areas of the southern border,” volunteer Geena Jackson told Colorlines.

One No More Deaths volunteer, Scott Warren, is facing felony human-smuggling charges for allegedly providing two migrants with “food and water for approximately three days,” according to United States District Court of Arizona records.

While unauthorized border crossings are actually at a 46-year low, the migrants who are crossing into the U.S. are taking more extreme routes to enter the country. Increased militarization along the border in recent years has pushed migrants into more remote areas.

“[If] Border Patrol puts a checkpoint up 50 miles north, migrants are walking 60 miles. Then they put another checkpoint 80 miles north. And now migrants are walking a hundred miles,” Jackson said.

The No More Deaths volunteers work in and around the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Arizona. The National Park Service says this region “might well be the loneliest international boundary on the continent.”

But the region is also one of the deadliest for migrants trying to enter the U.S. through the desert. At least 44 percent of the recovered human remains in Arizona have been found in this region, according to public records analyzed by Humane Borders.

“It feels very clear to me that fighting for our ability to provide humanitarian aid and keep doing this band-aid work to respond to the crisis is more important than ever,” Jackson told Colorlines.


Journalist Jorge Rivas follows the national conversation through the lens of racial, sexual, and political identity. His investigative stories and videos have been featured on ABC News, Univision, Splinter, The Nation, and Colorlines. He is a graduate of San Francisco State University, where he studied the history of Central Americans in California. He is based in Los Angeles.