“If giving water to someone dying of thirst is illegal, what humanity is left in the law of this country?” —No More Deaths volunteer Catherine Gaffney
Last month, four volunteers from the humanitarian organization No More Deaths were convicted for leaving jugs of water and cans of food in the Arizona desert for migrants. As reported by The Washington Post and other major news outlets, the aid volunteers were charged with entering a national wildlife refuge without a permit, operating a vehicle in a wilderness area and abandonment of property and face up to six months in prison and a $500 fine.
Under normal circumstances, I’d be glad to see laws against littering and destruction of a protected area being enforced. When Greenpeace, in a self-promotional stunt, trampled all over the ancient Nazca Lines in Peru and gave a ‘sorry, not sorry’-style apology, I took note of where the organization’s priorities lie. The damage is irreversible. I will forever be angry at those who took advantage of the government shutdown to camp illegally and chop down endangered trees at Joshua Tree National Park. It may take 300 years for the park to recover, and it is infuriating how little value has been placed on preserving our national parks by this administration long before the shutdown occurred.
However, these are not normal circumstances. Human lives are at stake. Possibly 155 migrants have died in this particular area of Arizona desert while trying to flee from the violence that drove them from their homes. We’ll never actually know how many people have died while attempting to reach the U.S. border because bodies decompose astonishingly quickly in desert conditions.
What makes this humanitarian crisis worse though is knowing that some Border Patrol agents have deliberately poured out the jugs of water to hasten the deaths of migrants. If I had any say, I’d charge the border agents who were filmed dumping water out onto the ground with attempted murder. The intent to kill is there. If the law doesn’t see it that way, I’d want their wives and children see these videos so they know exactly what type of person they are living with—even if, no, especially if, their excuse is “I was just following orders.”
Sometimes laws are immoral. Sometimes laws are good, but applied immorally. The latter is happening here. I hope that No More Deaths (nomoredeaths.org) receives support from people outraged by the thought of denying water to those dying of thirst in the desert. The organization has legal fees to pay and will need new volunteers who are willing to face arrest for attempting to save a human life.
Demonized though they may be, migrants traveling through Central America to the United States are human beings and no human being should die of thirst.
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