An Arizona activist was found not guilty Wednesday of harboring undocumented immigrants who had crossed the southern border, a decision that came months after a jury first deadlocked on charges stemming from his work as a volunteer at the border.
Scott Warren, who volunteered with No More Deaths, a humanitarian group that has dropped off water in the deserts of southwestern Arizona and operates a camp that helps injured immigrants, faced two counts of harboring an undocumented immigrant.
The case marked the second time prosecutors had charged Warren in relation to helping two men from Central America. The first time, prosecutors charged Warren with one count of conspiracy to transport or shield undocumented immigrants, in addition to two charges of harboring.
Prosecutors dropped the conspiracy to transport charge after Warren’s first trial ended in a hung jury.
“The government failed in its attempt to criminalize basic human kindness,” Warren said on the steps of the courthouse.
John Moore / Getty Images
Federal prosecutors alleged that Warren had done more than just offer humanitarian aid to the two undocumented men, but that he attempted to hide the men from authorities inside a small building in Ajo, Arizona called “the Barn.”
According to court documents, on January 17, 2018 Border Patrol agents were conducting surveillance at “the Barn,” which aid workers used to store supplies such as water and food, when they saw Warren and two men they suspected were undocumented immigrants.
The Border Patrol agents along with Pima County Sheriff’s deputies went to “the Barn” and spoke with the two men. The immigrants told authorities they had been given the address to the building and told they could get food and water there. In addition to food and water, the two immigrants said Warren gave them clean clothes and a place to sleep for three days.
The agents arrested Warren and the two undocumented immigrants.
Immigrant advocates and supporters of Warren called the timing of the arrest suspicious because it came hours after No More Deaths released videos of Border Patrol agents destroying jugs of water volunteers had left in the desert.
After being acquitted, Warren spoke of the two undocumented men, Kristian and Jose, he was arrested with in 2018 and said people like them are at the heart of this story because they’re forced to make impossible decisions and bear the brunt of the suffering.
“As we stand here people’s brothers, sister, father, spouses and children are in the midst of the perilous desert crossing. The need for humanitarian aid continues,” Warren said.
Since he was arrested, Warren said, the Trump administration has ramped up its efforts to install a 30-foot high border wall.
“Let’s all take a deep breath get some rest and be ready for and open to whatever comes next,” Warren said.