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Scott Warren speaks to ASU No Más Muertes chapter about trial, activism

Scott Warren and No Más Muertes members argue humanitarian aid is never a crime

Scott Warren.jpg

Scott Warren listens to a question at a meeting of ASU’s chapter of No Mas Muertes on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, at Barrett, the Honors College on campus in Tempe, Arizona.

ASU’s No Más Muertes chapter held its first meeting of the semester Tuesday night when activist and former ASU lecturer Scott Warren spoke about his involvement with the organization that works to prevent the death of migrants crossing the southern border of Arizona. 

Warren made local and national headlines this summer when he faced trial on three counts of harboring, and conspiring to harbor, immigrants in Ajo, Arizona. 

Read more: Trial begins in the case of ASU teacher charged with harboring undocumented immigrants

Warren spoke about the recent legal controversy over providing humanitarian aid to migrants in Ajo. In January 2018, Warren was arrested and accused of harboring undocumented immigrants and conspiring to harbor at a humanitarian aid stop in Ajo called “the Barn,” he said.

Warren stood trial in June 2019; and was declared a mistrial after the 12 jurors failed to reach a verdict. Warren will be retried for the two counts of harboring on Nov. 12. The conspiracy to harbor charge was dropped following the June trial.

Although the maximum sentence for harboring is five years, Warren said he does not expect to spend that long in jail, but going to jail is still a real possibility. 

Warren said his case came down to intent, since the key legal element of harboring an undocumented person is intent to break the law, but Warren argued in court that his intent was to provide humanitarian aid. 

“The government says essentially there is no such thing as humanitarian aid,” Warren said. “If you put a gallon of water in the desert, that's not humanitarian aid, that's furthering somebody who is illegal's presence because they will be able to drink that water and hike another three or four hours into the country.”

Warren said students in No Más Muertes should consider volunteering to help immigrants in other ways besides providing water along trails into the U.S.

“There's an enormous need (in Ajo) for people who have any kind of medical experience,” Warren said. “If you speak Spanish, if you have any experience navigating the complexity and the terribleness of U.S. immigration, really, people are just in need of information.”

Warren said he would do the work if he could, but he had to surrender his passport. 

Read More: Opinion: The ASU community should stand with Scott Warren

No Más Muertes ASU president MaryKelly Starrs, a junior studying global health, said students stepping up to help migrants on the southern border is more important now than ever before. 

Starrs said protecting people who are being persecuted has been going on since the beginning of time. 

“I feel like none of this is new," Starrs said. "This has always been a part of history … I feel like you just have to (help) no matter what you have to do, especially if you come from a place of privilege.”

Amber Layne, member of No Más Muertes and senior studying anthropology, said the organization allows people to be a part of a socially conscious support network.

“The friendships that you make are going to be built on solidarity, and that extends beyond water drops,” Layne said. “Being involved with this group to make friends who are here to support you really does help.”

Starrs said her involvement and volunteer work in No Más Muertes, along with the friends she has made, has been very therapeutic for her.

“Everyone has a common goal that we see every human exactly as they are,” Starrs said. “It's really important to remember that if you're struggling mentally with these (immigration issues) … ultimately you'll be repaid with friends.” 

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