Click here for Webinar Links and More info!
From SOA Watch:
Dear SOA Watch,
We recently shared SOA Watch’s difficult decision to indefinitely postpone the 2020 Training Day and Action Convergence in Tucson to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus and protect our communities. Given the magnitude of the current health and humanitarian crises, it is our responsibility to find alternative forms of solidarity with those most disproportionately affected. We must remain vigilant to state violence and authoritarianism as governments protect corporate interests at the expense of peoples’ wellbeing and health.
With this in mind, we invite you to join us for the Confronting Forced Migration and Violence in the Americas Webinar Series on Saturday and Sunday, April 4th and 5th, 2020. Together with Stop US Arms to Mexico, Alliance for Global Justice, No More Deaths, Veterans for Peace, and other compas, we are facilitating a series of five, one-hour webinar workshops. The series will examine the impacts of US-backed state violence in the Hemisphere, the root causes of forced migration, militarization, and using effective narratives, mutual aid, research, and lobbying to nourish our collective work as we face the current humanitarian crisis.
Please note that interpretation from English to Spanish or Spanish to English will be provided throughout the entire Webinar Series. The webinar schedule, panel descriptions, and SEPARATE registration links for each webinar are found below.
Saturday, April 4, 2020
9:00 am – 10:00 am Pacific Time / 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm Eastern Time
Voices from Abya Yala (the Americas): Realities and Resistance
Panel held in Spanish with English interpretation.Panelists:
Lucia Ixchiu, Somos Abya Yala – Somos una América, GuatemalaJorge Andrés Forero-González, Somos Abya Yala – Somos una América, Colombia
Abilio Peña, Servicio Internacional Cristiano de Solidaridad con los Pueblos de América Latina «Óscar Romero» (SICSAL)
In the Kuna people’s language, Abya Yala means “mature land,” “living land,” or “blossoming land” and refers to America. In the first panel, organizers from Guatemala and Colombia reflect on the impacts of neoliberalisms, extractivism, state violence, forced migration, and the pandemic within their communities and throughout the Americas. We will also discuss how communities and social movements are resisting and organizing to safeguard their rights, dignity, and territories in this context.
Registration Link: bit.ly/SOAWatchWebinarSeries1
10:30 am – 11:30 am Pacific Time / 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm Eastern Time
Countering Anti-Migrant Narratives and Media Work
Panel held in English with Spanish interpretation.Panelists:
Maha Hilal, Justice for Muslims Collective
Laura Carlsen, Americas Program
Panelists will discuss how narratives are used to both highlight and conceal the nuances of forced migration and US interventionism. We will also discuss the role of the media in creating narratives that criminalize and dehumanize communities of color and the emergence of new narratives developed by migrants and asylum seekers.
Registration Link: bit.ly/SOAWatchWebinarSeries2
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm PT / 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm ET
Impact of COVID-19 Crisis on Migrants at US-Mexico Border
Panel held in English with Spanish interpretation.Panelists:
Jennifer Harbury, Angry Tías y Abuelas, Rio Grande Valley
Nicol Bowles, Community organizer in Texas Borderlands
Casa Carmelita, Asylum Seeker and Migrant Community Support Center
The coronavirus has grabbed headlines in local and international media. However, we have heard little about the disproportionate impact of this pandemic on the most vulnerable communities. In this webinar, we will discuss the situation facing asylum seekers on the US-Mexico border and how local communities are responding to these challenges.
Registration Link: bit.ly/SOAWatchWebinarSeries3
Sunday, April 5, 2020
9:00 am – 10:00 am PT / 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm ET
Researching U.S. Militarization of Borderlands and Mesoamérica
Panel held in English with Spanish interpretation.Panelists:
Natalia Báez, Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights
John Lindsay-Poland, Stop US Arms to Mexico Project of Global Exchange
How do we access information on the US gun trade, Mexican military forces, and how they impact human rights violations? How can we translate hard data on militarism for social media use and to change policy? In this webinar, veteran researchers guide us through how to access information on US-sourced weapons in Mexico and Central America.
Registration Link: bit.ly/SOAWatchWebinarSeries4
10:30 am – 11:30 am PT / 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm ET
Policy advocacy on U.S. militarism and guns in Mexico and Central America
Panel held in English with Spanish interpretation.Panelists:
Dana Frank, Professor of History emerita at the University of California at Santa Cruz
Eugenio Weigend, Center for American Progress
This webinar draws on the extensive experience of two effective policy advocates regarding gun policy and US policy in Honduras to respond to the following questions: What policies impact violence and arms trafficking in Mexico and Central America? Are the gun industry and militarists using the current crisis to promote harmful policies? How can we engage legislators in Washington to change those policies?
Registration Link: bit.ly/SOAWatchWebinarSeries5
SOA Watch is committed to challenging US-backed state violence that protects capitalism and profits at the expense of the wellbeing and dignity of our communities and territories. We stand strong with, and in, our communities and build our capacity to organize, resist, and engage in mutual aid. We hope you will join us for this webinar series and continue supporting our collective work for justice and structural change!
In continued solidarity,
Brigitte, Candice, Dévora, Pablo, and Roy
FACEBOOK LIVE AVAILABLE: @SCHOOLOFTHEAMERICASWATCH
Tickets are sold out for our 2/13 Luis Urrea event!
Thank you for your support.
This event is made possible by our generous sponsors:
Desert Diamond Casino & Entertainment – An Enterprise of the Tohono O’odham Nation
Rancho Gordo – Specialty heirloom bean supplier based in Northern California
Tumerico – Vegetarian, scratch kitchen based in Tucson providing food for the event reception
Antigone Books – Voted Tucson’s best independent book store by readers of Tucson Weekly
Earlham College Border Studies Program – Program focusing on migration, identity, and social justice
EXO Roast Co. – Small batch, specialty coffee roaster in Tucson
People’s Defense Initiative – Grassroots community organizing fighting for human rights in Tucson
Rincon Market – Local family-owned deli, grocery, and restaurant in the Sam Hughes neighborhood
Rubin & Bernstein PLLC – Law firm based in Tucson, Arizona
Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson – The fiscal sponsor of No More Deaths / No Mas Muertes Mr. Urrea is the author of The Devil’s Highway and 16 other books, which reflect his cross-cultural experiences as a Mexican-American. Born in Tijuana, Mexico to an American mother and a Mexican father, Urrea is best known as a “border writer”. He has won many awards for his writing and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2005 for The Devil’s Highway, which tells the story of a group of men who in 2001 attempted to cross the border into southern Arizona’s deadliest corridor – the very area where our volunteers leave lifesaving food and water. He was recently named a Guggenheim
Since January, No More Deaths’ Missing Migrant Crisis hotline has logged 6,640 calls in their mission to help migrants lost, injured, and dying in the desert borderlands.
“When we established the hotline in 2017,” an operator remembers, “there were very few of us.
Often it’s a mother calling, consumed with unimaginable pain and worry, searching for her son or daughter. Cases include detention searches and migrants missing in the desert of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and California.”
If you Google “Searching for Someone Lost at the Border” or “Persona Desaparecida Arizona,” No More Death’s hotline comes up. When a call comes in, volunteers ask the caller’s relationship to the missing person and where the individual crossed, urging callers to contact their home country consulate. When the person is detained, No More Deaths helps them navigate the detention system, explaining their rights while in detention and how to open a phone account and commissary.
For those seeking asylum, No More Deaths offers legal resources. If the person is not detained, the volunteer ascertains who had the last communication and when, where the person departed from, and any other source of information, such as someone who crossed with them or knew their route. The window for potential rescue is two to five days.
“Our response depends on time frame, whether the missing person has a phone, and their physical condition,” a volunteer explains. “It’s a tremendous emotional strain for the same few people on call, so it’s healthy to build up the team. Soon, there will be eight trained operators. We’ve established protocols for interacting with Border Patrol. We are expanding our relationships with several consulates, the Colibri Center (who works with the Pima County Medical Examiner), the Tohono O’odham Nation, and allied search groups.”
Many families don’t want to talk directly with authorities who work within the system that has deliberately disappeared their loved one. Detention center employees don’t always speak Spanish. Often relatives are put through to an answering machine. The ICE locator is the only public database for detainees, and it can be difficult to navigate or inaccurate because authorities enter the name wrong, and there can be long delays.
“We act as a humane cushion between the family and authorities,” an operator observes. “We give emotional support during recoveries, disappearance, and death. We meet with the family, have
dinner with them, light a candle for their loved one, offer what comfort we can.”
If families can help with a search, No More Deaths teammates take their lead from the family. “We accompany them on searches, assist with logistics and navigating maps, and give moral support,” a volunteer says. “But we have to be clear about our capacity and not give false hope. We try to stay realistic.”
When medical examiners confirm the identity of remains, No More Deaths team members travel to be with the families, if in Arizona or Sonora, Mexico. Struck by the families’ strength and resilience, volunteers strive to uphold their stories, to prevent them from being defined only by a dot on a map, lost in the flood of statistics.
— Katherine Pew, No More Deaths volunteer
In response to the death of an undocumented teenage boy last May when governmental agencies did not deploy a search and rescue operation when requested, a coalition of concerned community members called an emergency meeting. The No More Deaths Abuse Documentation and Search & Rescue teams met with Pima County, Arizona Sheriff Mark Napier, the Colibrí Center for Human Rights, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Community Law Enforcement Partnership Commission, and a member of the deceased’s family. The goal of the meeting was to strongly urge the Pima County Sheriff’s Department to deploy its resources in response to borderlands search and rescue emergencies in the future for all people without prejudice.
The death of this individual is tragic, and unfortunately not an anomaly. The No More Deaths Missing Migrant Crisis hotline received at least 857 calls about missing migrants from May through July of 2019, and Pima County’s 911 dispatch line receives between 4-5 emergency calls from people crossing the border every day. Historically, Pima County has transferred all 911 calls from people crossing the border between ports of entry to the U.S. Border Patrol with no follow-up, documentation, or mobilization by Pima County’s Search and Rescue team.
The Abuse Documentation Team’s upcoming third installment in the report series Disappeared: How U.S. Border Enforcement Agencies are Fueling a Missing Persons Crisis, exposes systemic governmental non-response to reported borderlands emergencies. The report will include analysis of two years of over 456 case notes from the Missing Migrant Crisis Line and over 2,000 emergency 911 calls. In 60% of cases in which an emergency search was requested from Border Patrol, there was no confirmed search.
In a follow-up meeting in August, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department informed us that they had taken steps to improve their Search and Rescue protocols. The Department has committed to
respond to search and rescue cases that are within their jurisdiction and when Border Patrol will not respond or the county deems the Border Patrol effort inadequate. The department also committed to documenting the outcomes of cases in their jurisdiction which 911 dispatchers transfer to Border Patrol. In response, the Abuse Documentation team is working to widen our coalition to continue to advocate for Pima County and all government agencies to ensure effective emergency Search and Rescue services for all distressed people in the borderlands.
The next installment of the Disappeared report series detailing Border Patrol emergency non-response will be released in early 2020.
You can read the first two reports in the series here: www. thedisappearedreport.org.
— Parker Deighan, No More Deaths Abuse Documentation Coordinator
On November 20th, a jury acquitted Dr. Scott Warren on 2 counts of felony harboring. Below are statements shared after the verdict was released:
Dr. Scott Warren:
“Everyone here did diligent, detailed, and amazing work. And regardless of the verdict our preparation and commitment has always paid off. I love you all. And to those who aren’t here because they are keeping up the humanitarian work in the desert, I love you, too.
And to local residents who have always provided the stranger at their door with food, water, and humanitarian relief—you know I love you as well. Both in and out of court our work here has been to educate. To explain the complicated context of the border with clarity, and to bring an understanding of the humanitarian crisis to those who will listen.
There are others who disagree with our humanitarian work. Some of those folks are in this very courthouse—but they are also our neighbors, friends, and very own family. I understand that they follow a moral compass that guides them to different conclusions about the border than me. And I know that I have much to learn from their perspectives, experiences, and frustrations as well.
And to migrants like Jose and Kristian, who are truly the ones at the center of this story, our hearts are with you for the dignity, respect, and self determination that is your right.
Unfortunately, the damage to land and life in the border region not only continues, but has been ramped up, way up, since all of this began. Throughout the trial we mistakenly referred to the land surrounding Ajo as a military range, a wilderness, a Border Patrol area of responsibility. But it’s O’odham land. All of it. And now, a new 30 foot high wall threatens further dispossession of native people and the destruction of this important and beautiful landscape.
Let’s all take a deep breath, get some rest, and be ready for—and open to— whatever comes next.”
Geena Jackson, long term desert aid volunteer:
“My name is Geena Jackson and I am a volunteer with No More Deaths.
Today the defense attorneys said in closing arguments that despite varying moralities in our current society, we have one thing in common, and that is the law. But this community, in Southern Arizona, and in every community along any border, we know that we have much more in common. We have our humanity, and no law or border can touch that. We have been saying for years that humanitarian aid is never a crime, and today 12 jurors agreed. But today I also want to remember that just being human is never a crime. They can try to regulate our communities, our movement, our communication, and our humanity, but we will resist. We can never stop caring for each other, and as living, loving beings in this desert we can never stop sharing water, food and our homes.
Scott was accused repeatedly of providing orientation to those who needed it. In court Greg Kuykendall said, “It is a human right to know where you are.” In these borderlands communities, we know where we are. We live near a border, along the lines that the state uses to determine citizenship, to define whether or not you belong. Global migration patterns are going to intensify. The climate crisis will lead to more and more displaced families. This wall being built on stolen land is not just an attempt to stop those currently walking in the desert, it is being built to try and stop the thousands who are coming seeking refuge. Now is a moment for orientation. Know where you are, and give orientation to those who don’t. Know who you are, and how you will respond, and never let any government or law challenge that. In our communities, we know where we are, and we are so much deeper than any border can define. We know what resilient people and communities look like.
I want to hold space now for the entities that this courthouse has violated. Jose and Kristian, the two people arrested with Scott, have been talked about for weeks, their intentions and actions have been deliberated over and over again. Pictures of their faces and their bodies have been flashed in this courthouse over and over again. And that was wrong. I want to take a moment to honor that a smiling selfie during an incredible journey to tell your loved ones you are ok, is a powerful and beautiful act of resiliency and comfort. Jose and Kristian’s actions and pictures do not belong anywhere near a courtroom. I want to take a moment of silence for these two men wherever they are today.
I also want to take a moment to honor this desert. Being in that courtroom I heard our home referred to as a vast nothingness over and over again. But this desert is full. It holds the lives and loves of our communities. It holds the spirits of the thousands of disappeared. It holds plants and creatures that thrive on just enough rain. This desert has taken the beating of border militarization and wall construction and remains powerful, despite what any human hands try to do.
This battle has been long and exhausting. I resent that we ever had to fight this battle in the first place. But through it all, we never stopped providing humanitarian aid. We thank all of our supporters far and wide who have followed this trial and who have taken actions big and small to help us get through to today. We hear you and see you and we know we are not alone. We know that there are communities all over the country, indeed all over the world, that are organizing in their own homes, schools, and churches.. Thank you for continuing to put water in the desert, for searching for the lost and the missing, thank you for welcoming in those who needed a rest.
Thank you to those who never stopped fighting deportations, trying to prevent anyone from ever having to make this journey in the first place. This battle has been long, and there are so many greater battles yet to come, but let’s take today and just celebrate that we won.”
After only 2 hours of deliberation, on the afternoon of November 20th, 2019, the jury returned a not guilty verdict on both counts of felony harboring.
Day 6 – November 20th
- Over 100 faith leaders gathered this morning outside the courthouse to profess how their faith calls them to support No More Deaths’ work in the desert. “They thought that they could stop us, but we can’t stop. To do so would be to cut the cords that connect us to God, to ourselves, and to one another.” – The Reverend Hannah Bonner
- Inside the courthouse, attorneys made their closing arguments. Prosecutor Nate Walters argued: “When the defendant made a choice to help [the two men], that’s when he crossed the line and broke the law. … He could have told Jose and Kristian to leave. [He] could have given them food, water, and medical supplies and said good luck. But that’s not what he did. … Scott Warren is guilty. He provided shelter to two undocumented people.”
- Defense attorney Greg Kuykendall began his closing statement by saying, “Being a Good Samaritan is not against the law. Practicing the Golden Rule is not a felony.”
- He reminded the jury that it was necessary for the prosecution to prove that Scott had helped Jose and Kristian with the specific intention of harboring them from Border Patrol. Scott did not have reason to help Jose and Kristian avoid arrest, “but he did have reason to care whether they were alive and safe, and that reason is that he’s a fundamentally good and decent human being.”
- He also reinforced that Scott not calling Border Patrol on the two men was not an act of criminal intent. “Our country never requires regular people to inform. We have to obey the law, but we don’t have to obey somebody else’s moral code. Reporting people to Border Patrol is somebody else’s moral code, it’s not the law.”
- Prosecutor Walters presented his rebuttal. He attempted to cast doubt on Jose and Kristian’s need for humanitarian aid by referencing the selfies that they took at the Barn: “It’s almost like they’re on a vacation, resting up in order to continue their journey further north.” Jose and Kristian had just survived walking through a desert where over 3,000 people have died since 2001.
- After closing arguments, Judge Collins gave the instructions for deliberation. The case is now in the jury’s hands and we await a verdict.
Day 5 – November 19th
- This morning we gathered outside the courthouse to write letters and collect funds for folks detained in immigration jails. For people who cross the desert, surviving the journey may mean the beginning of being trapped in dehumanizing & dangerous detention facilities. These spaces can be especially harmful for LGBTQ individuals. Letters and donations will go to support Trans Queer Pueblo, the LGBTQ Detainee Support Collective, and the Casa Mariposa Visitation Program. If you’d like to make a donation, click here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/zyb568-support-trans-asylum-seekers
- Dr. Scott Warren took the stand this morning. His testimony focused on the dire need for humanitarian aid in the desert around Ajo. He spoke at length about his personal experience recovering the bodies of eighteen individuals who perished during their journey. He explained that, “It doesn’t get easier….but one thing that’s a bit disturbing, frankly, is you start to expect it.”
- Scott spoke about how his first Search and Recovery led him to get more involved with humanitarian aid, and that the experience underscored how being oriented to one’s surroundings can mean the difference between life and death. Being oriented gives people a chance to self-rescue, and the ability to share enough information with a Search and Rescue team to make a rescue possible. He specifically testified about the landmarks he pointed out to Jose and Kristian – two landmarks visible from a long distance than can be used to find one’s way to the only paved road for miles if they need help. If someone becomes disoriented and walks away from the highway, they will find themselves in an active bombing range.
- Scott spoke in more detail about the horrors faced by people on their journeys. “For any migrant who enters the desert or for Central American folks traveling up through Mexico they have experienced all kinds of violence along the way. […] The intensity of having to travel that distance, people being left behind, people being kidnapped or killed, encountering the bodies of other people dying from the elements. This leaves trauma and PTSD for those that keep going.”
- In providing the humanitarian aid of water, food, and orientation, Scott testified about the internationally recognized standards of neutrality, set out by organizations such as the Red Cross. He explained that, here in Arizona, neutrality means, “We are not there to help migrants evade Border Patrol and we are not there to help Border Patrol arrest migrants.”
- During the afternoon, Scott was cross-examined by Prosecutor Anna Wright, who dug into the organization’s protocols and his role. Anna Wright repeatedly tried and failed to undermine Scott’s credibility based on his previous testimony. She grilled Scott on testimony that he viewed it as part of his role to maintain a safe space for volunteers and migrants alike, and his testimony that he respects the self-determination of migrants while providing humanitarian aid. In a show of remarkable insensitivity, Ms. Wright questioned Scott on whether or not he conducted criminal background checks and ran fingerprints on Jose and Kristian before offering food and water.
- The prosecutors continued to accuse Scott of concealing Jose and Kristian because he did not call Border Patrol when he encountered the two men on the property. However, Scott had previously testified about participating in Ajo Border Patrol’s Citizens Academy in 2013. He confirmed that Border Patrol agents stated that no one had any obligation to report undocumented migrants to them.
For more information on No More Deaths’ Search and Rescue efforts or information on how to look for someone who has gone missing after crossing the border, see our website: https://nomoredeaths.org/searching-for-someone-missing-at-the-border/
Day 4 – November 15th
- Court started late today. Andy Silverman, member of No More Deaths legal team and Professor Emeritus of Law at the University of Arizona took the stand first. He discussed the No More Deaths legal protocols and volunteer trainings: “One of the very basic principles of No More Deaths and civil initiative is that we are transparent in everything we do. The work we do, and the way we do it, is proper and legal. We provide all information and materials to prevent loss of life.”
- Two long term volunteers also testified. Ellie spoke about her experience with No More Deaths and her drive to do humanitarian aid work “I grew up in Tucson, hiking and recreating in the desert. When I began to hear of deaths in the desert, it hit quite literally close to home. When a tragedy is happening in a place you call home, it compels you to act.”
- Ellie testified about her motives, rooted in compassion, the consequences of getting lost in the desert and the value being oriented to where you are: “I carry a high level of concern for people getting lost. If someone is in trouble, you can’t sit down and wait for somebody to find you, you need to find yourself help. In that area, it is a much more vast distance between roads or towns.”
- Isabella, another volunteer, also testified. January 2018 was her first month in the desert with No More Deaths and she described what happened in the week leading up to the arrests. Three days prior, volunteers had come across human remains in the desert near Ajo. “We hiked several miles down until we came to the skull, then we did a grid search…it was my first time encountering a human body in the desert.”
- She explained that the experience had an emotional toll on her and her fellow volunteers. Scott lead a debrief for the volunteers that evening, creating a space for everyone to process the experience. She said it helped her think about “what it means to come face to face with death everyday while constantly fighting for life.”
- Dr. Norma Price, a member of the No More Deaths medical team, who has volunteered along the border since before the founding of No More Deaths, took the stand. She testified about her consultation with Scott regarding Jose and Kristian, affirming their need for medical care.
- She testified about the dangers that all migrants face in the desert, and the way aid workers respond. She stressed the excessive vulnerabilities to dehydration and exposure in cold and hot environments alike. She also spoke about injuries that in other contexts, might be viewed as minor, when asked by defense counsel; “can you die of blisters?” She responded: “Any injury to the lower extremity…can impair someone’s travel. if they can’t keep up with the group they are left behind. if they are left behind, they get lost and if they’re not found… they will die.”
DAY 3 – November 14
- We started off the day outside court by decorating water gallons with messages of solidarity and love. Volunteers then went out to the desert on water drops, joined by members of the Catholic Worker Movement and Jewish Voice for Peace. Throughout the past two years of prosecution, we have not stopped our work in the field, and regardless of the outcome of this case will continue to give aid where it is most needed.
- Trial began with video of the interrogation of the two men arrested with Dr. Warren–José and Kristian–both of whom were detained until they testified and then deported. We acknowledge that these stories are not ours to tell, but we also don’t want their experiences to be erased.
- José and Kristian are from Honduras and El Salvador, respectively. Like so many people who attempt this journey, they traveled for months before they scaled the wall and entered the Arizona desert. They described dropping their food and water after seeing Border Patrol agents in the desert near Ajo and continued on through the cold, without any supplies. In video deposition, José explained how he and Kristian supported each other as they navigated north – “We guided ourselves by the stars. Between the two of us, we made a good team. We supported each other mutually.”
- In the afternoon the prosecution called Patti Fitzsimmons, a US Border Patrol Enforcement Analysis Specialist who does forensic extractions of cell phones and described their job as tracking “criminal activity” throughout the Tucson sector, and network analysis “to take down an entire organization”.
- The prosecution focused their questioning of Fitzsimmons on selfies extracted from Kristian’s cell phone that showed José and him at a gas station and later, at the Barn cooking themselves dinner. As with the last trial, the government’s argument seems to be that the men were not visibly ill and therefore not deserving of food and water.
- Cross-examination focused on cell phone records extracted from Dr. Warren’s phone, which included calls and texts with nurses, doctors, volunteers, and the local sheriff’s department. From the previous trial we know these communications to be medical consultations and reports of recovered remains. The defense clarified that there was no evidence of contact between Dr. Warren and Kristian.
- After Fitzsimmon’s testimony, the prosecution rested their case. Defense Attorney, Amy Knight, then moved for all charges to be dropped based on insufficient evidence in the case. Judge Collins denied the motion.
- The defense called their first witness, Dr. Greg Hess. Dr. Hess is the Chief Medical Examiner for Pima County. Dr. Hess, a Forensic Pathologist, examines the remains of hundreds of people that are recovered from the desert surrounding Tucson every year. He described the increase in deaths over the last decade, stating that prior to the year 2000, less than 20 remains were recovered every year in Arizona. By 2002 this jumped to over 100, and has averaged 164 for the last 20 years. The majority of deaths are caused by exposure. The prosecution repeatedly tried to object to Dr. Hess’s testimony based on relevance stating that “there are no deaths in this case”, but were overruled.
- The final witness for the day was Dr. Ed McCullough, Professor of Geosciences at the University of Arizona and volunteer with the humanitarian aid organization Tucson Samaritans. Dr. McCullough was absent from trial, so the defense had the transcript of his testimony read from the previous felony trial. His testimony described geographic trends of undocumented recovered remains, focusing on the increase in remains being recovered in the west desert surrounding Ajo, Arizona – specifically, the “trail of deaths” documented in the Growler Valley.
DAY 2 – November 13
- Today in court, the prosecution called BP agent John Marquez and agent Brendan Burns to the stand. Coincidentally, Agent Burns is currently facing a lawsuit by the ACLU for violating immigrant constitutional rights to due process.
- John Marquez, the agent who initiated the surveillance the day of the arrest, testified that part of the reason he suspected Scott Warren of criminal behavior was precisely because of his humanitarian aid work with No More Deaths. In his post-arrest report, Marquez quoted an article from Northern Arizona University’s newspaper, The Lumberjack, which describes a time in 2017 when Scott took a group of highschool students out to the Growler valley. There he and the students gave water and food to migrants, and came across human remains.
- For the first time since this case began, both arresting agents admitted under oath this morning to knowing about NMD’s Disappeared Report exposing Border Patrol destruction of water supplies before they arrested Dr. Warren, Jose & Kristian. Marquez revealed that he became aware of the report shortly after beginning surveillance of the Barn on January 17th. Agent Brendan Burns also testified that Marquez made him aware of the video footage released by NMD that afternoon.
- Marquez and Burns revealed both their personal and wider systemic BP racial bias on the stand. Marquez testified that his reason for believing Jose and Kristian were migrants was based on them wearing clothes that “looked like they were from the thrift store,” and claimed that they “matched a description” of two Central American migrants. Defense Attorney Greg Kuykendall questioned Marquez’s logic when he asked, “you didn’t know if they were men or women, short or tall, bearded or not, how old they were, you didn’t know any distinguishing characteristics? You ASSUMED these guys must be the two people who supposedly had left the day before?”, to which Marquez replied: ”Yes.”
- The agents’ racial profiling was obvious to at least one juror, who asked: “If Scott had been talking to two women or anglo people would you still have moved in for the knock and talk or was it based on the fact that they were hispanic?” Agent Burns deflected the question, stating that it was Scott’s “actions” and the “whole picture” that influenced his decision.
- Agent Burns was also questioned regarding text messages he and other agents exchanged while surveilling the Barn. Most notably, Agent Burns’ was questioned about his text message “2 toncs at the house”, and a fellow agent’s response that read, “What!?!?!?!?!?! Nice!” Border Patrol agents claimed that the term ‘toncs’ is an acronym for “traveling outside of native country”, but it is widely known to be a racist term that refers to the sound a person’s skull makes when they are hit in the head with a flashlight. Marquez and Burns were questioned about the fact that the Barn was not secured as a crime scene following the arrest of Scott, Jose, and Kristian. It was once again stated that Border Patrol entered private property without a warrant and took unauthorized photos of interior spaces. Border Patrol did not return until January 22nd —5 days later— to carry out a search warrant to gather evidence. Agent Marquez confirmed that, “if you’re looking for evidence and you don’t secure the scene, people come in and out, in and out, then it’s a polluted scene. Then it doesn’t provide a valid crime scene.” Despite this, the government is still submitting all the evidence they gathered before and after obtaining a warrant.
DAY 1 – November 12
- The retrial of Dr. Scott Warren on federal harboring charges began today. The morning was spent seating a jury – a process the public was not welcome to witness.
- Just before court proceedings officially began, Judge Raner Collins granted a last-minute pretrial motion put forth by the prosecution that forbids the defense team from mentioning the Trump administration or it’s immigration policies
- Judge Collins provided instructions for the jurors, including the need for the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Scott acted with intent to violate the law. Also included was the fact that there is no obligation, under the law, for an individual to report a suspected or known crime to authorities.
- In her opening statements, Prosecutor Anna Wright, explained that in this case “there may be distractions. This case is not about those distractions. This case is about the law and evidence. It is only about Scott Warren… The evidence shows he intended to shelter and shield safe from a watchful eye of border patrol.
- Defense Attorney Greg Kuyendall countered, explaining the context of the desert around Ajo: “He helps migrants in the most lethal desert environment imaginable. He, and others, put supplies in the desert because of one simple truth: water will keep you alive
- Kuykendall explained that deeply rooted biases held by Border Patrol agents cause them to perceive humanitarian aid work as criminal. Describing that assumptions based in bias lead to the surveillance, arrest, trial and the current re-trial of this case.
- The Disappeared Report Part II and viral video released the morning of the arrest was mentioned for the first time in front of jurors (the report and mentioning of the report was excluded from evidence in the first trial).
A fundraiser for No More Deaths/ No Más Muertes
Join us for an evening with renowned author Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Devil’s Highway, Guggenheim Fellow, and Tucson Book Festival favorite.
A 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for nonfiction and member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame, Urrea is the critically acclaimed and best-selling author of 17 books, winning numerous awards for his poetry, fiction and essays. Born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and American mother, Urrea is most recognized as a border writer, though he says, “I am more interested in bridges, not borders.”
For more info and to learn about sponsorship opportunities, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To purchase tickets, go to nomoredeaths.brownpapertickets.com. Tickets are limited.