Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

June 6, 2019

Scott Warren: Humanitarian Aid on the Border: 'An epic undertaking'

Photos courtesy No More Deaths
Describing recovering the remains of 18 people near his home in Ajo, Arizona since 2014, No More Deaths Volunteer Scott Warren testified, "The journey is a kind of epic undertaking where you have to put everything on the line to make it…There is an expectation of struggling.”

The leader of Pueblo Sin Fronteras was arrested Wednesday under pressure from Trump, as No More Deaths'volunteer Scott Warren's federal trial is underway in Tucson. Another leader, Cristóbal Sánchez was arrested in Mexico City, the same day.

By No More Deaths
Censored News

TUCSON -- In the federal trial of humanitarian aid volunteer Scott Warren.
Roundup of day 5 in the trial of #ScottWarren:
1) We began the day with over 100 people of faith joining together for a prayer service outside the courthouse. Faith leaders from around the country and across traditions spoke to the importance of staying true to one’s values in the face of repression, and to caring for the most marginalized in our society. “Water is sacred, water is life,” chanted the crowd. Just before Dr. Warren’s entrance to the courthouse, friends, family and supporters gathered around him and blessed him, that “no weapon formed against him prosper”. You can find photos here: Faith Floods the Courthouse

2) The first witness of the day was No More Deaths volunteer Isabella Reis-Newsom, who was on her first month-long program with the organization in January 2018 and stationed out of Ajo. Isabella shared about her experiences providing harm reduction supplies to shelters in northern Mexico and going on a search for someone who died in the borderlands. When defense lawyer Greg Kukyndall asked her to describe the human remains the team found in the desert, the prosecution swiftly objected and the objection was sustained. The same happened when the defense tried to admit into evidence a video of the same remains produced by search and rescue group Armadillos del Desierto

3) Volunteer Flannery Shay-Nemirow testified to taking No More Deaths’ record-keeping system out of the Barn days after the arrest of Scott Warren. The prosecution tried to imply that removing the documents from the Barn was a form of evidence tampering, despite the fact that no law enforcement agency had indicated to anyone that the Barn was now considered off-limits following Scott’s arrest. When asked why the records were removed, Flannery described the extensive destruction of humanitarian aid supplies done by Border Patrol agents and expressed fear that agents would target and destroy even more supply drops if they had the GPS points of each one. “We put these water bottles out to save lives, so every time a water bottle is destroyed there is a possibility a life is lost,” they said.

4) Geena Jackson, a NMD volunteer since 2012, took the stand in the afternoon. She described No More Deaths’ process of crafting organizational protocols, and talked about how they are based off of the International Red Cross Code of Conduct. This code recognizes the importance of a distinction between humanitarian aid and law enforcement. She also spoke to her experience trying to get Border Patrol to initiate searches for missing migrants. “The information they require to act is so limited in scope,” she said “and changes from agent to agent,” that in 7 years of asking, Border Patrol had only mobilized a search in response to one of her requests. Geena finished her testimony by talking about how volunteers from various organizations will often come across multiple bodies when searching for one known missing migrant. “One time we got permission to enter the Barry M. Goldwater Bombing Range, and in one day we found the remains of 12 people.”

5) Reverend Bethany Russell-Lowe from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson testified that No More Deaths is a ministry of the church and that the organization shares their core value that “all people are worthy of love, dignity and respect.”

6) Dr. Scott Warren took the stand later in the afternoon. He spoke about his education and experience as a cultural geographer and resident of Ajo, Arizona, describing his work as a humanitarian aid volunteer with the Ajo Samaritans and No More Deaths. As Scott testified, the courtroom was transfixed-many attempting to hold back tears as he spoke about his experiences recovering the bodies and skeletal remains of 18 individuals who had died in the desert surrounding his home since 2014. He also testified about how his work is informed by his spiritual beliefs and practices, as well as his understanding of the legal frameworks and protocols that underpin non-governmental humanitarian aid.

7) Scott testified that his approach to providing humanitarian aid is informed by three fundamental intentions: relief of suffering, respect for human dignity, and the right to self-determination. “It’s a bit of a misnomer to talk about…organizations [like No More Deaths] as ‘rescuing’ folks. People themselves are undertaking that…The journey is a kind of epic undertaking where you have to put everything on the line to make it…There is an expectation of struggling.”

Trial continues tomorrow at 9:30 and will open with Dr. Scott Warren continuing his testimony for the defense.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing, tree and outdoor(Above) Ajahn Sarayut Arnanta from Wat Buddhametta: "Our right to practice what we believe is in crisis. And now our compassion our loving kindness is in crisis. We are [under] attack by them."
Image may contain: one or more people, hat and outdoor

(Above) Photo by Ponders — at Evo A. DeConcini Federal Building & US Courthouse.

(Below) Reverend Matthew Funke Crary of Borderlands Unitarian Universalist Church
Quoting from Unitarian Universalist’s Rev. Susan Frederick Gray and Minister Erika Hewitt: No one is outside of the circle of love. With compassion as our guide, we seek the well-being of everyone. We seek to dismantle the systems of oppression that undermine humanity.
Photo by Ponders
 — with Matthew Funke Craryat Evo A. DeConcini Federal Building & US Courthouse.

VIDEO below: Humanitarian aid volunteers say the prosecution of No More Deaths volunteers is in retribution targeting for No More Deaths for publishing this video of US Border Patrol destroying life giving water left for migrants in southern Arizona.

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