[Pnews] Government Doesn’t Want Trump or His Immigration Policies Mentioned in Retrial of Border Aid Worker Scott Warren

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Nov 11 15:45:52 EST 2019


  Government Doesn’t Want Trump or His Immigration Policies Mentioned in
  Retrial of Border Aid Worker Scott Warren

Ryan Devereaux - November 11, 2019

_As they prepare_ to make their second attempt at sending a border-based 
humanitarian volunteer to prison, federal prosecutors in Arizona are 
worried that the politics behind the policies they enforce might creep 
into the courtroom.

In a late-stage motion, government lawyers have urged 
an Arizona judge to bar any mention of President Donald Trump or his 
immigration policies from the upcoming retrial of Scott Warren 
a 36-year-old geographer who was indicted on felony harboring and 
conspiracy charges for giving two young migrants crossing a deadly 
stretch of desert food, water, and a place to sleep for three days in 
2018. Warren is one of nine volunteers with the faith-based organization 
No More Deaths that the administration has charged with federal crimes 
for their work in the Arizona desert since Trump’s inauguration.

The prosecutors’ concerns that Warren’s trial could become a referendum 
on Trump’s policies — specifically those that involve pressing charges 
against people for providing humanitarian aid — are not entirely 
misplaced. According to new research examining public opinion around the 
president’s hard-line border enforcement measures, Americans, regardless 
of political affiliation, overwhelmingly reject the notion that 
providing lifesaving care to people in the desert should be 
criminalized, suggesting that the government’s crackdown in the 
borderlands is well outside the bounds of what most people expect or 
demand from law enforcement.

A national survey conducted in August by Chris Zepeda-Millán, an 
associate professor of public policy at UCLA, and Sophia Jordán Wallace, 
an associate professor of political science at the University of 
Washington, posed the question: “Do you agree or disagree that it should 
be a crime for people to offer humanitarian aid, such as water or 
first-aid, to undocumented immigrants crossing the desert along the 
U.S.-Mexico border?” To the researchers’ surprise, nearly 87 percent of 
the 1,500 American adults surveyed disagreed. When the results were 
broken down along party lines, the survey became even more interesting: 
Nearly 70 percent of Republicans said they disagreed with criminal 
prosecution for the provision of humanitarian aid, and nearly 38 percent 
said they “strongly disagreed” with the idea.

    Nearly 70 percent of Republicans said they disagreed with criminal
    prosecution for the provision of humanitarian aid.

“The findings suggest that the vast majority of Americans, including the 
vast majority of Republicans, do not support the criminalization of the 
type of work that No More Deaths and Scott Warren were doing,” 
Zepeda-Millán told The Intercept.

The survey was conducted for a forthcoming book and paper looking at 
public opinion around Trump’s most aggressive immigration and border 
policies. And while there’s still work to be done on that broader 
project, the researchers chose to share their findings on the 
humanitarian aid question in advance of Warren’s retrial — he returns to 
court on Tuesday and faces a decade behind bars if convicted and 
sentenced to consecutive terms — in part because of how striking they are.

Students of U.S. immigration enforcement history tend to agree that the 
Trump administration’s approach did not suddenly materialize out of 
nowhere, but is instead the extension of a multidecade trajectory of 
increased criminalization of immigration offenses and an unprecedented 
build-up in border security infrastructure, now infused with the 
hard-right rhetoric of authoritarian regimes around the world. There is 
one area, however, in which the current administration has distinguished 
itself from its White House predecessors, Zepeda-Millán noted: the 
targeting of immigrant rights activists 
While it keeps thousands of asylum-seekers in legal limbo in some of 
Mexico’s most dangerous 
border cities, the administration is simultaneously criminalizing — and 
in some cases arresting and deporting 
<https://theintercept.com/2019/11/02/deportation-occupy-ice-daca/> — 
those who challenge Trump’s policies, he noted.

It’s a pattern of “anti-movement state repression,” Zepeda-Millán 
argued, and it’s why understanding public opinion on these policies is 
so critical. Traditionally, the best indicator of a person’s stance on a 
given immigration policy issue is their party affiliation, he explained. 
“When it comes to immigration, there’s usually a really strict and 
stable partisan divide,” he said. “As long as we know what your 
political party is, we can pretty much guess what your opinion is going 
to be on deportation, on the wall, etc.”

The survey results bucked that trend in a major way, reflecting a rare 
thing in American politics: strong, bipartisan consensus on a matter of 
immigration-related policy in the era of Trump.

_The same Trumpian_ politics and policies that Zepeda-Millán and Wallace 
examined, and that prosecutors have sought to banish from Warren’s 
trial, have served as the backdrop for the government’s criminalization 
campaign in southern Arizona from the beginning.

It started in the run-up to the 2016 election, with Border Patrol agents 
parking their vehicles outside the humanitarian aid camp that No More 
Deaths has used for years and urging the volunteers to “Vote Trump!” by 
megaphone. Shortly after Trump’s election, then-Attorney General Jeff 
Sessions flew to Arizona, where he encouraged his prosecutors to bring 
more cases like the one against Warren. “This is the Trump era,” 
Sessions said at the time.

Not long after the visit, the Border Patrol raided 
No More Deaths’ camp in a show of force that involved a helicopter and 
roughly 20 agents, some carrying rifles, deployed to arrest four 
undocumented migrants who had crossed the desert and were receiving 
medical aid. Six days later, a senior Border Patrol agent in the Tucson 
sector told a world-renowned forensic anthropologist, who works on the 
issue of migrant deaths in the desert, that the humanitarian aid group 
had “messed with the wrong guy 
The anthropologist, in a sworn court declaration, said the agent told 
her his agency intended to “shut them down.”

Throughout the summer of 2017, the Border Patrol and senior officials at 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service worked together 
to monitor the activity of No More Deaths volunteers who were leaving 
food and jugs of water on the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, a 
profoundly remote and extraordinarily deadly stretch of the Sonoran 
Desert. They compiled blacklists of volunteers 
and kept tabs on Warren’s movements in the tiny border community of Ajo, 
where he lives and works. As summer turned to fall, prosecutors filed 
federal misdemeanor charges — for littering and trespassing — against 
Warren and eight other No More Deaths volunteers for driving on 
designated wilderness and leaving humanitarian aid supplies on the 
wildlife refuge.

On the morning of January 18, 2018, No More Deaths published a scathing 
implicating the Border Patrol in the destruction of thousands of gallons 
of water, left in jugs for migrants crossing the desert. The report, 
which included video evidence that soon went viral, was shared 
with the patrol agent in charge of the Ajo Border Patrol station. Agents 
from the station then set up surveillance on a building known as “the 
Barn,” which serves as a base for Warren, No More Deaths, and other 
border aid groups. Late in the afternoon, the agents spotted Warren with 
two young men who they suspected to be undocumented. A raiding party 
composed of most of Ajo’s law enforcement community was quickly organized.

    Since 2001, in Pima County alone, more than 3,000 people have lost
    their lives trying to cross the Sonoran Desert.

Warren and the two young men were placed under arrest. Their names were 
Kristian Perez-Villanueva and Jose Arnaldo Sacaria-Godoy. They had fled 
El Salvador and Honduras, respectively, and crossed the desert by foot, 
where they were chased by immigration agents and lost the food they had 
brought with them. In the depositions they later gave, they described 
how a man in Ajo dropped them off at the Barn and they let themselves 
inside. Warren showed up not long after. They asked him for food and 
water, and he welcomed them to both. Warren came and went in the days 
that followed, the migrants said, along with a number of other 
humanitarian aid volunteers using the space at the time.

Warren was indicted a month later on two charges of harboring and one 
count of conspiracy, bring the total time he faced in prison to 20 
years. His trial 
<https://theintercept.com/2019/08/10/scott-warren-trial/>, which began 
in late May, ended in a hung jury.

_With Warren’s retrial_ approaching, the prosecution and the defense 
have filed several motions in recent weeks, perhaps none so unusual as 
the one the government’s attorneys submitted on October 29. “For the 
first time, the United States learned the defense might mention the 
President of the United States, Donald Trump, his administration, or his 
administration’s policies,” the motion read.

Such references, the prosecutors argued, “would be irrelevant and 
unfairly prejudicial.”

The idea that Warren’s actions should now be divorced from the politics 
of the world at large is a new direction for Assistant U.S. Attorneys 
Anna Wright and Nathaniel J. Walters — though given the events during 
the last trial, that is perhaps understandable.

While Walters, in his opening statement at Warren’s trial over the 
summer, insisted that the prosecution was not about No More Deaths, and 
that the government’s concern was Warren’s actions alone, the nature of 
the prosecution’s case was something else entirely. Throughout the 
eight-day trial, Walters and Wright argued that Warren was the lynchpin 
in a shadowy criminal conspiracy to move people into the country 
illegally for political purposes. According to the prosecutors, the goal 
was not to make a profit, unlike most other criminal operations, but to 
undermine the Border Patrol and further No More Deaths’ political aim of 
establishing a borderless world. Over and over, both at the trial and 
pretrial hearings, the prosecutors asked No More Deaths volunteers if 
they supported the abolishment of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a 
policy proposal born in the midst of Trump’s immigration crackdown.

Central to the government’s narrative was a characterization of Warren 
as a deceptive and “high-ranking leader” of No More Deaths who could not 
be trusted. In an effort to underscore this idea, Walters at one point 
entered into evidence an article 
Warren wrote for the Washington Post on the eve of his trial. The 
bungled and baffling attempt to draw some damning revelation from 
Warren’s own assessment of the case backfired spectacularly. On 
cross-examination, Warren’s attorney, Greg Kuykendall, argued that if 
Walters was going to cherry-pick details from the op-ed, the jury should 
hear the rest of what was written. District Judge Raner Collins directed 
Warren to read the piece out loud and, with that, Warren linked his case 
directly to Trump’s most infamous immigration enforcement policies, from 
the crackdown on humanitarian aid to the separation of families at the 
border to a pattern of potentially preventable deaths in the desert.

For Warren’s friends and supporters, the introduction of the politics 
and policies that surround Warren’s prosecution into the official record 
felt like a turning point, a moment when the people deciding his fate 
were permitted to see what his case was really all about. In the end, 
eight jurors chose to oppose Warren’s conviction, while four supported 
it. In July, when the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that it would be 
retry the case, it dropped the conspiracy charge.

Any efforts to prohibit mention of Trump or his policies would violate 
Warren’s First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the U.S. 
Constitution, defense attorney Amy Knight wrote in a motion responding 
to the government’s request last week. Knight argued that the motion 
amounted to a request for an “extraordinary ban” with zero “explanation 
whatsoever of the prejudice” that would result from “daring to mention 
the President, a man who maintains ultimate authority over this 
prosecution (notably, the same man who appointed both the United States 
Attorney General and the United States Attorney for the District of 
Arizona).” Not only that, she noted, “the /government itself/ introduced 
the only mention of President Trump into the previous trial, when, while 
questioning Dr. Warren, it brought up an article he had written 
expressing some of his views.”

Paige Corich-Kleim, a longtime volunteer with No More Deaths, said in a 
statement to The Intercept that the organization worked “to expose 
government misconduct and intervene in the border crisis.”

“The government’s attempts to erase the political nature of this retrial 
is part of their continued efforts to hide what is truly happening along 
the border and evade responsibility for the violence they have caused,” 
she added. “Deaths on the border are the predictable outcome of not just 
border militarization, but also U.S. intervention in Latin America. 
Their attempts to limit the scope of evidence are self serving.”

    “The good news is that despite Republican support for very punitive,
    draconian immigration policies, we seem to have found a limit or a
    threshold to their nativism.”

Whether or not the government’s “he who shall not be named” efforts are 
successful, there are realities in Warren’s case that the prosecutors 
cannot escape.

Since 2001, in Pima County alone, more than 3,000 people 
<https://humaneborders.org/migrant-death-mapping/> have lost their lives 
trying to cross the Sonoran Desert, a grim result of government policies 
that began two decades before Trump’s election. These deaths, 
predominantly resulting from dehydration and exposure to the desert sun, 
are horrifically agonizing and, as Zepeda-Millán and Wallace’s survey 
shows, most people oppose criminalizing efforts to stop them from 
happening. It’s a fact that Zepeda-Millán finds both heartening and 
deeply sad.

“The good news is that despite Republican support for very punitive, 
draconian immigration policies, we seem to have found a limit or a 
threshold to their nativism,” he said. Though they consistently support 
a wall to keep undocumented immigrants out, and aggressive deportation 
measures to remove them once they are here, Zepeda-Millán added, “At the 
moment of life and death that migrants in the desert often find 
themselves in, Republicans seem to be willing to throw undocumented 
migrants at least a momentary lifesaver. That’s the good news.”

“The bad news,” he said, “is that’s a pretty low bar.”

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