ASU teacher arrested, charged with harboring undocumented immigrants

Scott Warren was arrested on Jan. 17 in Ajo, Arizona

ASU faculty associate Scott Warren was arrested by U.S. Border Patrol on charges of concealing, harboring or shielding undocumented immigrants on Jan. 17 in Ajo, Arizona, according to court documents. 

The arrest came hours after No More Deaths, an immigrant advocacy group Warren volunteered for, released a report accusing Border Patrol of destroying supplies such as food and water left for immigrants crossing the border. 

Border Patrol agents were conducting surveillance on a building called “the Barn,” a building known for giving food, water, shelter and other supplies to migrants attempting to illegally cross the border, when they allegedly saw Warren meet two suspected undocumented immigrants outside over a three day period, according to court documents. 

Bill Walker, Warren's attorney, said that a harboring charge must include hiding the migrants, something he said Warren did not do.  He said “the Barn” has been around for “ages” and is used by many humanitarian groups, meaning Warren did not have the authority to let the migrants in or kick them out. 

“This guy did nothing but try to give people food and water and medical care that were there in this building that he had no control over,” Walker said.  

Warren currently teaches online geography classes, and Walker said the arrest should not prevent him from continuing to teach.

“Mr. Warren was not acting in his capacity as an ASU employee at the time of the alleged incident and we have no reason to believe it will impact his ability to fulfill his current duty with the university,” ASU said in a statement.

U.S. Border Patrol and Scott Warren declined to comment.

No More Deaths volunteer Ana Sanchez said the timing of the arrest was “suspicious,” coming shortly after the group's report on border patrol. She said her organization was not aware of “the Barn” being under surveillance in that way.

Jason Roehner, an architectural photographer and friend of Warren’s, said he agrees the timing is suspicious. 

Roehner and Warren collaborated on a project called “After the Crossing” for The Phoenix Transect Project, for which Roehner said the two of them traveled to Ajo a few years ago to collect belongings migrants had left behind and photograph them. 

Roehner said he has gone on humanitarian trips with Warren before, much like the trip Warren was on when he was arrested.

“We’ve gone to the grocery store and picked up a pallet of water and gone out and left water in the desert for people,” he said.

Roehner said he was shocked reading the headlines yesterday morning. Warren is one of the kindest and most thoughtful people he knows, Roehner said. 

“You watch a documentary and it’s like ‘Oh man, that’s terrible I should do something about it,’ and then you turn the TV off and go to bed. But Scott is the person that does something about it,” he said. “He’s a humanitarian in every sense of the word.”

Vikram Badrinath, an immigration attorney in Tucson, said he thinks the charges are “probably politically motivated” and that Warren's charges will most likely be dropped.

“I think the government faces a very difficult road in trying to prove charges against him,” he said.

Oscar Hernandez, a senior public policy major and member of Undocumented Students of Education Equity (USEE) at ASU, said the arrest seemed “unnecessary.”

“I think it was retaliation because of the recent press conference that (No More Deaths) had sort of criticizing the work that the department of border patrol was doing,” he said. 

Edder Diaz Martinez, a senior journalism student who also works with USEE, said the arrest of humanitarian workers like Warren is "a shame."

“A lot of the work that that group does, it’s really in aid of the human crisis that is going down at the border,” Martinez said. “They’re trying to prevent people from dying ... I don’t know what kind of crime that is.” 


Reach the reporter at mlutesad@asu.edu or follow @mackinleyjade on Twitter. 

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