An Activist Faced 20 Years in Prison for Helping Migrants. But Jurors Wouldn’t Convict Him.

By Isaac Stanley-Becker, The Washington Post

When Scott Daniel Warren was arrested last year after allegedly providing food, water, beds and clean clothes to undocumented immigrants near Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, the question was whether he had broken the law or upheld it.

“No Más Muertes,” an advocacy group that wants “no more deaths” of people crossing the desert regions linking Mexico and the southwestern United States, sees Warren — one of its most visible members — as an apostle of humanitarianism. His advocates say the geographer, who has taught courses at Arizona State University, was heeding both religious rules and international covenants that require sanctuary for the persecuted and the dispossessed.

The government, however, sees Warren, 36, as a felon. Arrested by Border Patrol agents in January 2018 at a property offering aid for immigrants in Ajo, Ariz., he was accused of helping border-crossers evade authorities, which is prohibited under federal law.

The activist faced up to 20 years in prison on charges of harboring and conspiring to transport undocumented immigrants.

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At his trial, which began last month, a federal jury in Tucson was presented with two different versions of the accused. Had he acted on “basic human kindness,” providing only the necessities enabling migrants to survive, as his lawyer contended? Or had he aided and abetted those making a mockery of the nation’s immigration laws? Of the migrants he assisted, “They were not injured,” a federal prosecutor said, according to the Associated Press. “They were not sick. They were not resting and recuperating.”

Deciding who Warren is and what he did proved a task too tortuous for jurors, who said on Tuesdaythey remained deadlocked in their deliberations and could not reach a unanimous verdict.

The judge, Raner C. Collins, dismissed them and scheduled a status hearing in the case for July 2. The U.S. attorney’s office in Arizona did not immediately indicate whether it would seek another trial.

Addressing reporters outside the courthouse, Warren called on Americans to link arms with immigrants, a stance that activists claim is being criminalized as part of the Trump administration’s hard-line approach to border control. The geography instructor is one of numerous members of the “No More Deaths” group who have run afoul of law enforcement for trying to assist migrants. He is the first, however, to be slapped with felony charges.

Since his arrest, Warren said, “at least 88 bodies were recovered from the Ajo corridor of the Arizona desert.” The government’s response, he added, amounted to “policies to target undocumented people, refugees and their families, prosecutions to criminalize humanitarian aid, kindness and solidarity.”

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Olivia McDowellComment