[Pnews] Border Patrol Launches Militarized Raid of Borderlands Humanitarian Aid Camp

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Sun Aug 2 19:31:25 EDT 2020


https://theintercept.com/2020/08/02/border-patrol-raid-arizona-no-more-deaths/
Border
Patrol Launches Militarized Raid of Borderlands Humanitarian Aid Camp
Ryan Devereaux - August 2, 2020
------------------------------

*Camouflaged U.S.* Border Patrol agents in armored vehicles launched a
nighttime raid on a humanitarian aid camp in Southern Arizona on Friday.
Agents zip-tied volunteers’ hands behind their backs, shouted at them with
rifles raised, and confiscated their cellphones as well as the
organization’s medical records. At least two helicopters hovered above the
camp and a film crew documented the operation on the ground. Agents moved
through camp structures and arrested more than 30 undocumented immigrants
who were receiving treatment after trekking through the desert in the
middle of heat wave.

The humanitarian group, No More Deaths, a faith-based organization out of
Tucson, believes the operation was likely part retaliation, part violent
publicity stunt. The raid marked the second time in two years that the
Border Patrol descended on one of No More Deaths’ aid stations immediately
after the group published materials that cast a negative light on the
border enforcement agency.

“They started rolling in when the sun was setting, raided the camp when it
was dark, and created a lot more fear and chaos.”

On Wednesday, the group shared documents regarding a remarkably similar
raid on the same camp three years ago, which showed the Border Patrol’s
national union clamoring for a crackdown on No More Deaths. On Thursday,
less than 24 hours after the documents were posted online, Border Patrol
entered the camp without a warrant and took an undocumented woman into
custody. The agency then surrounded the location and set up a checkpoint to
detain and search volunteers as they came and went. The camp remained
surrounded until Friday’s raid.

Montana Thames, who gathered accounts from the detained volunteers,
described the operation as a militarized show of force that featured the
same Border Patrol tactical teams that were recently deployed to suppress
protests in Portland, Oregon. According to Thames, who is also a No More
Deaths volunteer, when agents entered the camp in Arivaca, Arizona, roughly
10 miles north of the border, they claimed they had a warrant but refused
to show it. “They pretty aggressively got people out of there and then
trashed the camp,” Thames told The Intercept Saturday. In addition to the
aircraft hovering above the camp, volunteers reported the use of at least
two dozen marked and unmarked vehicles, ATVs, and armored personnel
carriers.

Some of the agents looked to be members of the Border Patrol’s BORTAC
teams, the same commando-style units that were filmed bundling protesters
into unmarked cars in Portland, volunteers said — photos
<https://twitter.com/NoMoreDeaths/status/1289745083927994370> from the raid
appear to back up those claims. According to Thames, members of the
tactical unit raised their rifles and shouted at volunteers while they were
zip-tied. The decision to wait until nightfall to conduct the operation
felt deliberate and produced “unnecessary trauma” for the migrants
receiving care and volunteers alike, Thames said: “They started rolling in
when the sun was setting, raided the camp when it was dark, and created a
lot more fear and chaos.”

In a series of tweets, Roy D. Villareal, the chief of the Border Patrol’s
Tucson sector, said
<https://twitter.com/USBPChiefTCA/status/1289337478558527488> that agents
detected a group of migrants moving through the desert southeast of Arivaca
the day before the raid took place after tracking them
<https://twitter.com/USBPChiefTCA/status/1289349801922813952> “through
remote mountains for two days.” Villareal said agents encountered a migrant
“outside the perimeter of the camp” who “was quickly evaluated by a Border
Patrol EMT and transported by Arivaca Fire Department to a local hospital
for medical treatment.”

No More Deaths said that the woman in question was receiving care and that
the arrest occurred inside the camp, without a warrant. “I know for a fact,
100 percent, that all of the patients were stable and were getting care
from medically trained, medically professional volunteers,” Thames said.

Volunteers on the ground were particularly disturbed by the way that the
Border Patrol, after seizing the volunteers’ phones and foreclosing the
possibility of non-law enforcement documentation of the event, proceeded to
film the operation, climbing on top of vehicles to get various angles of
migrants being placed under arrest. “There was someone seeking aid and they
had this person stretched out like a photoshoot,” Thames said. “The aid
workers were detained for two hours, so I think it’s safe to say that for
at least an hour or two, they were just taking photos of people for their
PR.”

*Border Patrol agents* eventually showed No More Deaths a copy of a search
warrant for the aid station, Thames said, which identified phones and
paperwork as targets. While volunteers were zip-tied, the agents ripped
through every vehicle and structure on the property and confiscated the
group’s “SOAP notes,” paperwork that the organization uses to document
medical conditions and care provided to migrants at the camp. Many No More
Deaths volunteers also work as nurses and first responders; the group
models its work off of standards that the Red Cross uses in conflict zones
around the world.

Once the migrants were arrested and loaded into buses, the volunteers were
released. They found that the physical damage to their camp was severe.
Border agents slashed tent walls open with knives and photos from the scene
<https://twitter.com/NoMoreDeaths/status/1289732093832880128> show ransacked
tents <https://twitter.com/NoMoreDeaths/status/1289732103207129089>. “They
went into our office and took all the paperwork,” Thames said. “They took
all of our SOAP notes, all of our medical records, and every single
volunteer’s phone.” The phones and humanitarian aid documents remain in
Border Patrol custody.

The Intercept sent the Border Patrol a series of questions regarding
Friday’s raid and requested an unedited copy of the footage of the
operation. The agency provided no answers or footage, and instead issued
the following statement: “On July 31, 2020, Border Patrol agents from the
Tucson Border Patrol Sector, with support from CBP Air and Marine
Operation’s Tucson Air Branch executed a federal search warrant on the No
More Deaths camp near Arivaca, Arizona. Upon entry, over three
dozen Illegal border crossers were found within the camp.”

This is not the first time the Border Patrol raided a No More Deaths camp
after the group released unflattering information about the agency. In
January 2018, a plainclothes Border Patrol team set up surveillance on one
of the group’s aid stations in the unincorporated community of Ajo,
Arizona, just hours after the group published a report
<https://theintercept.com/2018/01/17/u-s-border-patrol-systematically-destroyed-water-supplies-left-for-migrants-in-desert-report-says/>
implicating the agency in the destruction of thousands of one-gallon water
jugs left for migrants crossing the desert. The raid that followed
<https://theintercept.com/2018/04/30/were-gonna-take-everyone-border-patrol-targets-prominent-humanitarian-group-as-criminal-organization/>
led to the arrest of humanitarian aid volunteer Scott Warren and two young
undocumented men from Central America.

Warren was accused
<https://theintercept.com/2019/05/04/no-more-deaths-scott-warren-migrants-border-arizona/>
of providing the men with food, clothes, and a place to sleep over three
days. The U.S. attorney’s office charged him with smuggling and conspiracy.
He faced up to 20 years in prison. His first trial ended in a hung jury
<https://theintercept.com/2019/06/12/felony-trial-of-no-more-deaths-volunteer-scott-warren-ends-in-mistrial/>.
He was acquitted on all charges
<https://theintercept.com/2019/11/23/scott-warren-verdict-immigration-border/>
in the second. Trump administration prosecutors in Arizona have brought
nine federal cases against No More Deaths, nearly all of them for leaving
water for migrants
<https://theintercept.com/2018/01/23/no-more-deaths-arizona-border-littering-charges-immigration/>
on public lands. The only convictions the administration was able to obtain
were tossed out earlier this year
<https://theintercept.com/2020/02/04/reversal-conviction-border-volunteers-gruesome-logic/>
by a federal judge, who wrote that they hinged on “gruesome logic” that
criminalized “interfering with a border enforcement strategy of deterrence
by death.”

The group, whose mission is to end death and suffering in the Sonoran
Desert, was born in response to the Border Patrol’s multi-decade, ongoing
strategy
<https://theintercept.com/2019/05/04/no-more-deaths-scott-warren-migrants-border-arizona/>
of funneling migration flows into the border’s deadliest areas
<https://theintercept.com/2016/06/04/fatal-migrations/> — at minimum, more
than 7,200 people have died as a result of the strategy.

“Yesterday, Border Patrol harmed 30 people in irreparable ways. On a daily
basis those who migrate through the Arizona desert are targeted,
terrorized, detained, and deported,” Warren said in a statement Saturday.
“Last night, we witnessed these tactics deployed against people who sought
medical care and relief at our Byrd Camp aid station. As always when
humanitarian aid in the borderlands is targeted, those who seek care are
the ones that face the brunt of these violent escalations.”

“As always when humanitarian aid in the borderlands is targeted, those who
seek care are the ones that face the brunt of these violent escalations.”

The Border Patrol’s first raid on No More Deaths’ camp in Arivaca came just
months after Trump’s January 2017 inauguration. Like the operation last
week, the raid unfolded in the middle of a blistering heat wave and
featured agents filming the operation on the ground. In a June 2017
email released
by the group <https://twitter.com/NoMoreDeaths/status/1288540949971218433>
last week, an individual who No More Deaths believes is a top official at
the Border Patrol’s national union complained that waiting for a warrant
unnecessarily delayed the operation and alleged, without evidence, that No
More Deaths used humanitarian aid as cover to smuggle drugs and people
across the border. A second email
<https://twitter.com/NoMoreDeaths/status/1288540949971218433/photo/1> the
group shared revealed that BORTAC agents advised on the 2017 raid.

Both of the emails were released under the Freedom of Information Act. The
Border Patrol’s union has close ties to the White House through Trump
administration adviser Stephen Miller, the ultra-hardline architect of the
president’s border and immigration policies. BORTAC, meanwhile, has
repeatedly been called on for some of the administration’s most politicized
operations, including a crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities earlier
this year and the more recent events in Portland.

*The Border Patrol’s* campaign against No More Deaths in Arizona is part of
a broader pattern of agencies under the Department of Homeland Security,
which includes the Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection, and
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, targeting critics of the president’s
border and immigration policies with surveillance and aggressive law
enforcement action. As hacked documents reported on earlier this month by
The Intercept
<https://theintercept.com/2020/07/25/portland-federal-agents-antifa-border/>
showed, DHS and its component agencies have repeatedly cast border and
immigration advocates as members of “antifa” and violent anarchist
extremists, groups that the agency and the president have described as
domestic terrorists.

[image: The War on Immigrants]Read Our Complete CoverageThe War on
Immigrants <https://theintercept.com/collections/the-war-on-immigrants/>

“That’s what fascists do — they retaliate,” said Greg Kuykendall, a
Tucson-based attorney who represented Scott Warren as the government tried
and failed to put him behind bars. “Tucson juries and Tucson judges have
experienced the kind of perils that people face in the desert and they
understand that humanitarian aid is not a crime — it’s a gift from God.”

“In any civilized society, of which there are plenty around the rest of the
world, humanitarian aid camps are recognized as a basic good and a thing
that needs to be provided, normally by either NGOs or governments
themselves, and they’re absolutely off limits from law enforcement — that’s
well established in the International Red Cross guidelines, as well as the
United Nations’ guidelines,” Kuykendall added. “Every organization that
deals with refugees and people that are in crisis situations, whether
they’re manmade or not, understands that humanitarian aid stations cannot
be places where law enforcement is allowed to go hunting.”

The veteran defense attorney suggested that perhaps the Border Patrol
deployments to Portland informed the agency’s decisions in Arizona.
“They’re pissed off they didn’t get sent to Portland to beat some hippies’
heads,” he said, so instead the agency flexed its muscles against the
targets it had on hand: a group of weary migrants and humanitarian aid
volunteers providing them care.

“There’s a lot of places you could be looking for harm being done besides
the baked desert of Southern Arizona,” Kuykendall said. “Like maybe
Washington, D.C.”
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