Volunteers with the
humanitarian aid group No More Deaths have been venturing into the harsh
Sonoran Desert for years to leave life-saving supplies for migrants
crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Longtime volunteer Scott Warren was
charged with three felonies for the alleged crime of providing food,
water and shelter to migrants. After a hung jury in June, he is now
facing retrial on two felony counts and faces a possible 10 years in
prison. As he awaits his next trial as well as deals with misdemeanor
charges in another case of aiding migrants, Democracy Now! followed him
into the Sonoran Desert for his first trip in a year accompanying other
No More Deaths volunteers who left water and food for migrants making
the treacherous journey north.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!
I’m Amy Goodman, broadcasting from Tucson, as we continue our journey
into the Sonoran Desert with humanitarian activist Scott Warren and No
More Deaths. Deep into the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, just
north of the U.S.-Mexico border, Scott and two other volunteers, Geena
Jackson and Paige Corich-Kleim, hiked into the desert over the weekend
to leave food and water for migrants.
AMY GOODMAN: Scott, how does it feel to be coming out here to be part of a water drop for the first time since your trial, in over a year?
It’s good to be back out in the desert, and it’s good to just be having
a presence out here again and to be part of that, part of the work that
people are doing.
AMY GOODMAN: What are your plans right now? Where are we? And what are you going to do?
We’re in Organ Pipe, and we’re heading in to check on some water drop
locations that are just up in these hills here. So, we’re hiking in to
check on those areas.
AMY GOODMAN: And how do you know about the presence of migrants in this area?
We’ve spent several years now in these areas doing search and rescue,
search and recovery, and doing water drops. And so, we just know that
people are moving through these areas. And they’ve been moving through
in large numbers for a while. Also, in these mountainous areas,
oftentimes there’s trails that people will hike. And so, it’s easy to
find those trails and sort of find evidence of where people have gone
before. And then, that’s where we try to get humanitarian supplies to
AMY GOODMAN: Have you found bodies or bones in these hills?
Yep. Yeah, we have, unfortunately. Where we’re going, in fact, there’s
been several recoveries that we’ve been in involved in, and searches,
and people who have died in this area, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you describe this area we’re walking through?
Sure, an area that’s — from here, we’re probably maybe 15 miles north
of the border, as the crow flies. And we’re hiking into these mountains
on the west side of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, which is
Hia-Ced O’odham land and territory. And its Sonoran Desert can be really
difficult to walk through, because even these areas that might look
like they’re flat, there’s actually quite a bit of terrain and
topography, because there’s these washes. So, oftentimes what seems like
it could be even just a flat, easy walk is like really strenuous,
because you’re dropping down into these deep washes and then climbing
back out and then going again and going down into a wash and climbing
back out again. So, it can be really difficult to hike through here.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you say what a wash is? A little gully?
Yeah, it’s a gully, yeah. It’ll have water in it when it rains. But
most of the time it’s dry. This is one way where we know where to drop
water, which is, we’re on these trails that are pretty distinct and are
used by migrants.
AMY GOODMAN: And what were they created by?
SCOTT WARREN: By people, by migrants just walking through here over time and establishing this path.
So, as you drop — make this water drop, I mean, we are standing here.
It’s over 100-degree weather. Just walking for — what? — half an hour,
it is so beyond depleting.
SCOTT WARREN: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: For migrants, some of them walk for days, and it can even be hotter than this.
Yes. Yep, that’s correct. Yeah, days in this weather. You can’t carry
enough water. You know, even if you’re able to carry like four gallons
of water, you’ll go through that. And so, people are dependent on
finding the few water sources that do exist in this desert, which
sometimes you get to a watering hole, and the water can be quite dirty,
or it can be dry. So, it’s a really —it’s really risky.
So, whenever we leave water gallons, we write messages on them, just
simple things for people to find, partially so that folks know that it’s
not Border Patrol like putting out water that’s a trap, and also just
to kind of show a level of care and solidarity with people who are
making a really dangerous trip. So, we just like write little notes on
them and then leave those for people to find.
AMY GOODMAN: What are you going to write?
I usually write kind of religious notes, so like “Vayan con la fuerza
de Dios” or “Que Dios bendiga su camino,” which means “Go with the
strength of God” or “May God bless your journey.”
AMY GOODMAN: Geena, can you describe what you’re writing on that bottle?
For this one, I wrote “¡Ánimo!” and “¡Mantenga la fuerza!” and “¡Sí, se
puede!” and words of — I don’t know — words of strength. I don’t know.
We’ve asked some of our patients before what would feel good to read on
the gallon, or what would be like a nice message, or what — I don’t know
— what makes the water seem more trustworthy. And a lot of people have
said, like, more religious stuff. And a lot of people have said
“¡Animo!” So, “¡Animo!” it is.
AMY GOODMAN: Geena, you’re now laying out canned beans. Why beans?
So, we lay out the cans that have pop tops, so that people can open
them pretty easily. And we want to put out things that have calories in
them and also salt. Drinking water is not enough. A lot of dehydration
comes from electrolyte imbalance. So, you need like sodium in addition
to water. So we want to put out salty food, or beans have calories and
is, like, starchy and has sugars, as well. Yeah, just for some caloric
intake in addition to the water.
AMY GOODMAN: And you’re putting this in the shade.
Yeah. Well, so, we want to protect the pop tops, because you can’t get
in the beans or any can very easily if you can’t get into it. So, a lot
of times I put them upside down, so that birds won’t peck at the shiny
part and break the pop top. And also, if it rains, we don’t want water
to collect in there, because it will rust the pop top. So, I put those
underneath, here. And then, we just want the gallons to be in a shadier
area, just to protect the plastic so it doesn’t disintegrate and for the
quality of the water. But we’ll come back and check on these drops
within like one week, two weeks, three weeks, and then can swap out if
anything has gotten old, or if things are used, we’ll pack up the empty
gallons and leave fresh ones.
AMY GOODMAN: Is this against the law in these parts?
Humanitarian aid is never a crime. It is a humanitarian imperative to
try and ease the death and suffering in this area. And regardless of
government agencies trying to prosecute humanitarian aid workers, we
maintain that humanitarian aid is never a crime.
AMY GOODMAN: As you watch this, Scott, what your colleagues are doing, from No More Deaths, do you get to describe this in the courtroom?
Yeah, I’m just noticing the energy of this moment, and I think maybe
because all of us are here, and hearing here my friends describe the
messages that they’re writing on the bottles. It’s so routine for us
that we do this, but even I forget like how important and like how
beautiful and really kind of sacred it is for us. And it’s an honor for
us to be able to be out here and do this work, I think.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Scott Warren with No More Deaths. It was his first time in more than a year accompanying a water drop in the desert. He faces a November retrial for helping migrants last year. When we come back, we speak with Robin Reineke, co-founder of Colibrí Center for Human Rights. She identifies the remains of thousands of migrants who have been found in the Sonoran Desert.
Originally Posted on Democracy Now!
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