Individuals might not imagine doing anything illegal when most of them think about practicing their religious beliefs. However, what occurs when one gets in legal trouble as a result of religious conviction? Volunteer groups have long tried to assist migrants in their passage through the Ajo corridor, an area heading north from the boundary astride state, leaving food, bottles of water, and medical assistance (Motlagh). However, federal agents clamp down on that lifeline, charging volunteers on trespassing, littering, and human smuggling offenses. Human rights advocates argue that Trump’s administration “criminalizes solidarity when implementing draconian policies that push migrants to put their lives in danger by passing through the desert. These claims are reinforced by the sentiments ”They do not do a damn thing to support the migrants (Motlagh),” as stated by Campos Gerardo of the Aguilas del Desierto volunteer assistance group based in San Diego. The group illustrates the decriminalization of genocide and place the blame on the Trump administration.
No More Deaths (No mas Muertes) began as an alliance of civic and religious groups in 2004 committed to saving migrants from harsh desert conditions. Since 2008, the Unitarian Universalist Religious community of Tucson had been a formal ministry (Stanley-Becker). The goal, the group says, is to safeguard fundamental human rights in addition to abandoning food, water, blankets, shoes, and other supplies in the extreme areas of Arizona’s deserts. No mas Muertes also aims to monitor the neglect, abuse, and mistreatment suffered by prisoners in short-term Federal police custody on the border and in the immigration-detention program. Since December, six migrant children died following their capture into federal custody. The team carries out their work from a tiny Ajo building known as The Barn, approximately 35 miles from the boundary (Stanley-Becker).
According to court records, federal agents started monitoring the premises in January 2018. Two migrants — Jose Goday Sacaria from Honduras and Perez Villanueva Kristian from El Salvador— had trekked past the border near the Mexican city of Sonoyta days before investigations began, as they stated in a declaration (Stanley-Becker). They strolled past the desert to a gas station at which a stranger insisted on driving them to a better neighborhood. Officials named the driver as Irineo Mujica, the director, and representative of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, a coalition of migrant rights coordinating caravans across Central America to the United States. Mujica was detained in Mexico in a development that the group claimed to be an attempt for the Mexican government to appease the U.S President Trump’s administration.
Arizona, Tucson’s federal court had become a place where the borderlands collide with the American legal system. Devereaux illustrates this in the court case scenario through Nathaniel J’s sentiments, “This case is not about humanitarian aid (Devereaux),” as he stated to the jury. Walters, a government advocate on his first statements, stated that it was about the choice by Scott Warren to participate in a conspiracy to violate the constitution and shield two illegal aliens from law enforcement over several days (Devereaux).” When Warren Scott Daniel was taken into custody after supposedly providing water, food, clean clothes, and beds for illegal immigrants near the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, the conundrum was if he had violated or upheld the law.
No Más Muertes, an outreach group that seeks “no more deaths” of people entering the desert regions from Mexico to the southwest of the United States, considers Warren as a humanitarian apostle, perhaps one of the most visible members amongst the group. His advocates argued the geographer who taught various educational programs at the University of Arizona heeded both international covenants and religious rules requiring sanctuary for dispossessed and persecuted people. Nevertheless, the government considered Warren, 36, as a suspect. Arrested in January 2018 at a property providing immigrant aid in Ajo, Ariz; by Border Patrol agents, he was charged with facilitating border crossers to avoid authority officials, which is illegal under federal legislation.
The 36-year-old activist’s trial sparked demonstrations outside the court. The case had gained global attention when human rights advocates from the United Nations called on U.S authorities to dismiss the charges. “It is not a crime to provide humanitarian aid (Stanley-Becker),” the United Nations authorities stated. Officials said, pointing to the dangers of Arizona’s migrant passageways, they account for more than one-third of the more than 7,000 border deaths documented over the past 20 years (Stanley-Becker). In other Western nations, the conflict has parallels, where the friction between humanitarian obligation and nativism has become as extreme.
In 2018, the highest court in France ruled that by smuggling dozens of migrant populations into the state, an olive farmworker had not committed a felony — a more resolute act than the one Warren’s attorney admitted to having taken. According to the judicial body, the dissident farmer had been protected by the fraternity principle enshrined in the constitution of France. The judgment reversed a lower court verdict that had ordered him to pay a $3,000 fine (Stanley-Becker). Nonetheless, other European nations are pushing forward criminal prosecutions against individuals who are trying to shield migrants.
The case of the members of the No More Deaths group illustrated how religion actions could get one in political conflicts. As indicated by the Trump’s administration, it is clear that any efforts to assist migrants in crossing into the American borders is considered a crime and is likely to elicit more debates and court cases regarding the relationship of religion and the political repercussions of Christianity as a religion. In this regard, the No More Deaths group members’ conviction has indicated the glaring gaps and risks involved in mixing religion with political matters.
Devereaux Ryan. Criminalizing Compassion. The Intercept. 10th Aug. 2019. Retrieved from: https://theintercept.com/2019/08/10/scott-warren-trial/
Motlagh Jason. The deadliest Crossing. Retrieved from: https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/border-crisis-arizona-sonoran- desert-882613/
Stanley-Becker Isaac. An activist faced 20 years in prison for helping migrants. But jurors wouldn’t convict him. The Washington Post, 12th June 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/06/12/scott-warren-year-sentence-hung- jury-aiding-migrants/