Border Patrol agents on Friday night raided a humanitarian aid station run by immigrant rights advocacy group No More Deaths, detaining 30 people in what activists described as a “massive show of force” aimed at intimidating the group.
“Once again, Border Patrol is concentrating their resources on interfering with humanitarian aid during the most deadly time of year for people crossing the border,” No More Deaths volunteer Paige Corich-Kleim told the Tuscon Sentinel.
In a massive show of force, Border Patrol + BORTAC—the same militarized tactical unit recently mobilized against protestors in US cities—descended on the camp with an armored vehicle, three ATVS, two helicopters, and ~24 marked and unmarked vehicles. pic.twitter.com/z1MUlk7gad
— No More Deaths (@NoMoreDeaths) August 1, 2020
Agents reportedly entered the camp without a warrant and without wearing masks.
The raid came less than 24 hours after Border Patrol agents entered the aid camp on Thursday, arresting one migrant.
Corich-Kleim said the escalation was part of an effort by the agency to discourage immigrants from using the station.
“People are dying in the desert because of border enforcement policy, and now Border Patrol wants to prevent people from accessing life-saving assistance,” said Corich-Kleim. “We view this is a clear violation of international humanitarian law.”
Volunteer Emily Saunders agreed, telling Arizona Public Media that the raid “is consistent with this pattern that we see from Border Patrol of interfering with lifesaving humanitarian aid, unfortunately during the hottest days of summer.”
“This does seem like an escalation, a retaliation, and targeting of those working to be in solidarity with and prevent the death of folks in the desert,” Saunders added.
The raid’s timing struck the group as suspicious, as Arizona Public Media reported:
The move comes a few days after No More Deaths released documents detailing the lead up to a larger Border Patrol raid on Byrd Camp in 2017. Saunders said the group sees the new raid as a retaliation.
In a statement, human rights and disaster relief advocacy group the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee condemned the raid “without hesitation,” calling the agency’s attack on the camp “a retaliatory campaign driven by xenophobia and racism.”
“Make no mistake, now is the time for all of us to wake up,” the committee said. “Border Patrol’s brutal treatment and interference with the right to provide compassionate aid or peacefully protest is quite close to totalitarianism and should frighten—and more importantly, outrage—each and every one us.”
No More Deaths volunteer Dr. Scott Warren, whose arrest and subsequent felony charges for harboring undocumented people and conspiracy resulted in a mistrial and a refusal by a jury to convict, said in a statement that the agency’s raid is part of an ongoing attack on immigrants in the Southwest.
“Yesterday, Border Patrol harmed 30 people in irreparable ways,” said Warren. “On a daily basis those who migrate through the Arizona desert are targeted, terrorized, detained, and deported.”
“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,” Warren added.