U.S. Border Patrol Detains Migrants at a Humanitarian Aid Camp and Breach International Law
US Border Patrol officers raided a medical aid camp run by the humanitarian group, No More Deaths (No Mas Muertas) and detained four immigrants receiving medical care at the camp, putting many more in danger. The raid to detain these four people included a helicopter, 15 trucks, and 30 armed agents. This is a reversal of an informal policy under Obama that for years allowed the group to provide water, shelter, and medical attention to migrants crossing the desert. This reversal of the status quo suggests a disturbing change in leadership.
Migrants who are crossing the remote US-Mexico borderlands face extreme conditions in the desert, especially in the deadly hot summer, yet often avoid seeking urgent medical care for fear of deportation and imprisonment. Because of this, a trusted humanitarian-based aid station in the desert is essential for preserving migrant’s lives. The recent targeted raid on the No More Deaths medical aid camp is shameful in that it is breaking not only international law, but also the trust in this essential lifeline to migrants in the desert.
No More Deaths
No More Deaths is located in southern Arizona, 15 miles from the US border, and formed in 2004 to provide aid to help end suffering and death on the US- Mexico borderlands. The work “embraces faith based principles” for immigration reform, and centers around the tenants of direct aid through the right to provide humanitarian assistance, witnessing and responding, raising awareness of the issues, global collaboration, and encouraging humane immigration policy.
Volunteers in the US desert hike migrant trails and leave water, food, blankets, and other supplies. Through leadership by the medical team, volunteers provide emergency first-aid treatment to individuals that need it.
In Mexico, the group provides phone calls, supplies and first aid to people who have been deported from the US, and to people who are heading north to cross the border into the US. The group holds search parties in the desert for migrants who have gone missing, Volunteers also document cases of abuse, mistreatment, and neglect by people in short-term Border Patrol custody and longer term immigrant detention. No More Deaths also runs a legal clinic in Tucson for community members who are facing deportation or are applying for status in the US, and works internationally with other immigration and human rights groups in resisting the militarization of the US-Mexico border.
Humanitarian and Environmental Crisis
There is an ongoing humanitarian crisis on the US-Mexico border that is a direct result of border enforcement policies. In 1994, Operation Gatekeeperprovided for the building of a border wall in parts of Southern California and Arizona that pushed migration routes into hotter, more treacherous, and remote desert regions. These policies have, in effect, claimed the lives of over 7,000 people since 1998, according to No More Deaths and the Colibri Center for Human Rights.
Migrants who have died from extreme desert conditions are found on an average of once every three days in the Southern Arizona desert. Climate change has exacerbated the crisis, and advocates argue that we must recognize the intersections between environmental and migrant justice.
“No More Deaths has documented the deaths and disappearances of hundreds of migrants in the Arivaca corridor of the border. Today’s raid on the medical aid station is unacceptable and a break in our good faith agreements with Border Patrol to respect the critical work of No More Deaths,” said Kate Morgan, Abuse Documentation & Advocacy Coordinator for the organization.
Under international law, humanitarian organizations such as No More Deaths are legally protected in their work. Obstruction of humanitarian aid, such as the targeted raid on the No More Deaths medical camp by the US Border Patrol, was a direct violation of this international law, as well as being a violation of No More Death’s written agreement with the Tucson Sector Border Patrol.
This is not the first time No More Deaths has clashed with Border Patrol; volunteers state that Border Patrol agents have historically, and regularly, vandalized water and food supplies left for migrants. However, this aggressive and blatant breach of trust between Border Patrol and No More Deaths marks an alarming new trend.
Despite the US government’s breach of international law and disregard of written agreements within the US, No More Deaths says it remains committed to its mission of humanitarian aid in the US-Mexico borderlands.
All photo credit goes to No More Deaths (No Mas Muertas)
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