Humanitarian aid worker Walt Staton, who was convicted of “knowingly littering” in a U.S. District court by a jury in Tucson for leaving sealed, gallon jugs of water along migrant trails on the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, received his sentencing on Tuesday. Federal Magistrate Jennifer Guerin ordered Staton to complete 300 hours of trash pickup on public lands within a year while he will also be on unsupervised probation. In addition, he was banned from entering the BANWR during that time.
Volunteers with organizations that put water along the trails, like the Samaritans and No More Deaths, are fond of saying that much of the garbage that litters the beautiful Sonoran desert belongs to the government, not the migrants or humanitarian workers.
It is puzzling to try to understand the government’s use of resources in prosecuting and demonizing people like Staton. It is not uncommon to hear from law enforcement officials that the humanitarian organizations are well-meaning, but their efforts to place water in the desert is misguided and contributing to illegal immigration. But the reality is that it is failed border and immigration policy that forces people into the deserts, not gallons of water along the trails.