Four women have been convicted of misdemeanors for leaving food and water for migrants crossing through a protected wildlife refuge on the U.S.-Mexico border in 2017.
According to the Washington Post, the volunteers—who were with the group No More Deaths—were charged with violating federal law by entering the 860,000-acre Cabeza Prieta on Arizona’s southwest border. U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernardo Velasco convicted the women following a three-day bench trial, saying that they violated “the national decision to maintain the Refuge in its pristine nature.” They could face up to six months in federal prison.
From the Post:
The criminal charges stem from an incident on Aug. 13, 2017, when a federal wildlife canine officer found the women’s pickup truck near Charlie Bell Pass, a historic site at Cabeza Prieta. Inside were water jugs, canned beans and several similar items. The officer spotted the women a few hours later. They admitted leaving food and water at the site, according to court records.
Natalie Hoffman, Oona Holcomb, Madeline Huse and Zaachila Orozco-McCormick were charged in December 2017. They said their work for No More Deaths was motivated by their religious convictions and a belief that everyone should have access to basic survival needs, according to court records.
More than 3,000 migrant deaths have been reported between October 1999 and April 2018, though actual numbers are likely higher. In addition to the four women convicted on Friday, five more No More Deaths volunteers will stand trial in February and March. Last year, nine volunteers were charged with federal misdemeanors for “littering.”