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Water: Litter or Life-saving?

writing-a-citationBorder activists from No More Deaths met with Ken Salazar and the Department of the Interior last week to discuss DOI’s escalating policy of issuing littering tickets to humanitarian aid workers.  There is no official word from the meeting, but representatives from No More Deaths at the meeting expressed there was support from Salazar for finding a solution.  The request from DOI to meet with No More Deaths follows on the heels of the humanitarian group’s announcement to resume distributing water on the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Reserve (BANWR).

On July 9, forty humanitarian volunteers returned the BANWR to place water along the deadly migrant trails that cross the refuge.  No More Deaths reports that:

Thirteen humanitarian volunteers received littering tickets after putting out gallon jugs of life-saving water intended for migrants crossing the US/Mexico border.

The citations took place on the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, which extends 30 miles north from the border in southern Arizona near the small town of Arivaca. The refuge is in a very active migrant corridor.

The weekend’s weather forecast calls for temperatures reaching 110-degrees in southern Arizona. June and July are the deadliest months for individuals attempting the trek through the desert.

Members from three humanitarian aid groups—No More Deaths, Tucson Samaritans and Humane Borders—attempted to place gallon jugs of drinking water at four locations on trails that migrants follow when crossing the border.

One volunteer reflected on the day’s actions and attempts to provide water for migrants.

Gathered in a circle, Rev. John Fife reminded us of our community’s commitment and responsibility to provide humanitarian aid everywhere that it is needed. We recalled two important anniversaries for human rights: the nearly 20 years that have now passed since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the arrest of two of our volunteers exactly four years prior to the day. The gathering ended with a prayer led by Rev. Gene Lefebvre, summoning strength for volunteers, relief for migrants on the trails at that moment, and the ability to preserve our desert with the end of deadly border policies.

[…]  After nearly four hours we gathered again, this time on the side of the road, to celebrate the courageous resistance of 13 people of conscience and the communities that stand with them. As the caravan departed in mid-afternoon, we left hopeful and still committed, yet at the same time saddened, as dozens of life-giving jugs of water sat confiscated as ‘evidence of a crime’ in the back of a truck instead of on the migrant trail where it is so desperately needed. We also left burdened by the knowledge that, as weekend desert temperatures reach 112 degrees, we will soon hear the news of the next unnecessary deaths that will undoubtedly come. Indeed, as our migrant brothers and sisters continue on this journey, forced to cross in more dangerous areas, we must keep the resolve to continue this work by their side.

Only time will tell what kind of solution can be reached for providing the life-saving humanitarian assistance needed on the refuge.  With the “official” migrant death toll at 124 for the summer, border activists and humanitarians will continue to do whatever they can to get water out to the most needed places in the Sonoran desert.  Whatever legal consequences there may be for their humanitarian aid, it will be embraced by the same principles of civil initiative, such as transparency and nonviolence, that groups like No More Deathsremain committed to.