Sabotage of Life-Saving Water by Border Patrol Increases Immigrant Deaths—

Government Brings Charges Against Nine Pro-Immigrant Activists

January 29, 2018 | Revolution Newspaper |


From readers:

Last week, the Arizona-based groups No More Deaths and La Coalición de Derechos Humanos released the second of their planned three-part report “Death & Disappearance on the US-Mexico Border.” “Part 2: Interference with Human Aid” documents systematic government interference with humanitarian aid to migrants, and specifically how the U.S. Border Patrol acts to increase death and injury to thousands of people attempting to cross from Mexico into the U.S. by destroying food and jugs of water left by volunteers hoping to prevent people from dying on their trip north.

Hours after the report was issued, Scott Warren, one of the leaders of No More Deaths and an Arizona State University instructor, was arrested by Border Patrol pigs who smashed down the door to a sanctuary building in Ajo, Arizona, used to house migrants. He is facing five years in prison on felony charges for harboring two people without documents. Eight other No More Deaths volunteers have been hit with misdemeanors for “abandoning personal property in a national wildlife refuge” (i.e., leaving water and food) and other charges.

Hundreds of thousands of people from Mexico and countries further south have been driven from their homelands into the U.S. every year seeking a way to survive massive unemployment, hunger, and the growing violence and dislocation that U.S. capitalist-imperialist exploitation and destruction has brought down on their countries

The journey north is extremely perilous. The U.S. has built new border walls, increased electronic and drone surveillance, and expanded both the numbers of Border Patrol agents and immigration check points. Since at least the Clinton administration, immigrants have been driven to try to cross in more and more remote spots. One of those spots is the Sonoran Desert region in southern Arizona, where temperatures regularly range from 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer to well below freezing in the winter.

Medical professionals recommend those traveling north to drink 1.3 to 3.1 gallons of water daily, depending on conditions. Water sources along the way are scarce and often polluted, so border crossers rely on whatever water they can carry. But this is rarely more than two gallons for the entire journey which can take weeks.

For years, No More Deaths volunteers have been placing food and water in remote areas along the U.S.-Mexico border on trails regularly used by migrants attempting to make it through the desert region. Those supplies can literally mean the difference between life and death. A December 2017 USA Today report said that according to the Border Patrol’s own data, at least 7,209 people had died trying to cross the border in the last 20 years because of extreme heat, cold, and dehydration from lack of water. But USA Today concluded the actual number is far higher because federal authorities largely fail to count deaths of those whose remains are recovered by local authorities. Moreover, only a fraction of those who die are discovered; everyone else is simply declared “missing.”

Nearly 90 percent of the water left by humanitarian organizations has been used by border crossers, undoubtedly saving countless lives. But No More Deaths and La Coalición de Derechos Humanos have documented that between March 2012 and December 2015, at least 3,586 gallon jugs of water in 415 separate incidents were destroyed just in the 800-square-mile desert corridor between Nogales, Mexico and Tucson, Arizona. By analyzing who has access to the land, the timing of hunting seasons, and other factors, the report concludes that the majority of destruction has been by U.S. Border Patrol agents, some of it caught on video. Border Patrol agents have also dumped out or punctured cans of beans so the food inside rots, destroyed blankets, and slashed the straps of backpacks so they can’t be carried.

These actions by the Border Patrol are conscious and deliberate, part of a strategy it calls Prevention Through Deterrence. As the report “Part 2: Interference with Humanitarian Aid” notes, “The practice of destruction of and interference with aid is not the deviant behavior of a few rogue Border Patrol agents, it is a systematic feature of enforcement practices in the borderlands.”

The report quotes a man from Sinaloa, Mexico, about what he saw during his several border crossings: “I saw the water bottles stabbed. They break the bottles so you can’t even use them to fill up in the tanks. I needed water, some of the other people in the group needed water, but we found them destroyed. [I felt] helplessness, rage. They [the U.S. Border Patrol] must hate us. It’s their work to capture us, but we are humans. And they don’t treat us like humans.”

Carrot Quinn, a writer/photographer who focuses on U.S.-Mexico border issues, wrote in the Guardian about her interview with Scott Warren of No More Deaths: “He told me that once he’d walked out into the desert at night, just to see what border crossers saw. He’d been overcome with the loneliness of that great emptiness, and he’d looked up at the stars and thought about how these same stars were the last thing that many people saw before they died, in an arroyo or under a palo verde tree, hundreds or thousands of miles away from the people that they loved. Then he’d laid down in the dirt, in the dark desert, and he’d wept for a long time.”

The Trump/Pence regime’s promise to build even more physical walls on the border, increase electronic detection and other surveillance technology in the border region, and hire massive numbers of new Border Patrol agents will make all this even worse. This is nothing short of racist mass murder. And it is a key part of consolidating and further ramping up fascist rule in the U.S.

Border Patrol agents have harassed, intimidated, and detained No More Deaths volunteers, including a three-day stand-off last June with roughly 30 Border Patrol agents who eventually entered a No More Deaths camp and arrested a group of migrants receiving urgent medical treatment. Scott Warren’s felony arrest last week is because he was accused of giving food, water, clothing, and bedding to two migrants.

And this is occurring at the same time authorities are targeting immigration activists for arrest and deportation—including leaders of resistance against anti-immigrant repression, such as the politically targeted arrest, detention and threatened deportation of two prominent immigrant leaders in New York City recently. The government is also going after young recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and ending legal protections (Temporary Protection Status, TPS) for hundreds of thousands who have been in the U.S. because of life-threatening conditions in their home countries, and stepping up raids at work places and on public transportation. And there are open threats by Trump/Pence regime officials that all this will dramatically increase.

No More! ¡Basta Ya! Anyone with an ounce of humanity must come to the aid and defense of immigrants and those who are stepping out to help them, and being arrested for it. The Trump/Pence regime’s assault on immigrants and their defenders must be opposed, and the whole regime must be driven out!




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