By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau
SACRAMENTO – University of California, Davis political science professor Brad Jones understands he could be risking a federal prison sentence – courtesy of the Trump Administration – every time he provides humanitarian aid to migrants in the Sonoran Desert.
He and other immigrant rights supporters talked about the federal crackdown on humanitarian workers along the southern border Friday at a rally in Sacramento.
Jones wasn’t shy about it. “I’d happily go to jail,” he said, to continue his work.
In fact, at least eight humanitarians workers have been convicted of “littering” for leaving water jugs in the desert for migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. from Mexico.
And today, Monday, Dr. Scott Warren begins a trial for “littering” – for putting water in the remote, arid desert just outside of Ajo, AZ, where migrants die every year and countless more go missing. He has another felony trial in late May for providing shelter and care to two immigrants, and faces decades in prison if convicted.
The NorCal Resist rally in Sacramento, and others around the U.S. last week, noted that the arrests of ”No More Deaths” aid workers like Warren “are attacks on the very fabric of a civil society that recognizes and upholds the value of every human being….(and) on the values share by any individual of science who would stop to help someone in need.”
Jones, whose own research addresses Latino-relevant public policy, such as U.S. immigration policy, couldn’t agree more.
He spoke of how volunteers leave water in strategic places in the desert to help those crossing the border. More than 3,200 have died, he said, the past few years.
“The number if probably much higher. The border patrol undercounts the deaths….and many of those who have died are never found,” said Jones, who held up a black jug he said belonged to a Juan Salvador who died 65 miles north of the border, but just a few miles away from a subdivision.
“He made the trip before, but he got lost,” said Jones.
He also warned that, during the two years of the Trump presidency, “vigilante racist terrorist groups have infiltrated the desert,” and sabotaged the 50-gallon water tanks left by the No More Deaths volunteers, sometimes shooting holes in the tanks and other times poisoning the water.
“Border Patrol is working with these bullies, thugs and criminals,” said Jones who likened their actions to “attempted murder.
“A very sad thing is that family may never know what happened to their loved ones who died in the desert because of a lack of water,” said Jones, who explained that while border crossings have been cut by about 40 percent the past few years, deaths have dramatically increased.
“It’s the most dangerous place to cross the border – the intense heat, the vastness of the desert. People trying to get to the U.S. may be fewer but those who try are now taking the greatest risks,” he said.
“No one should have to brave death to escape threats of rape and violence in their homeland. No one should have to brave death to reunite with their family. No one should have to brave death just for the opportunity to live somewhere they can build a life,” said Ruth Ibarra of NorCal Resist.
“As the crisis of disappearance continues, we must fight to preserve the right to act on principles of human decency, to be able to treat our neighbor with compassion and kindness without the fear of government harassment and prosecution,” Ibarra added.