100 Picked up in the Desert Near Phoenix

The AP reports that Border Patrol picked up a group of 100 migrants in the Arizona desert yesterday after an exhaustive search. Seven of the migrants, along with three sheriff's deputies, were taken to the hospital, seemingly for heat-related illnesses.

This looks like a display of humanitarian care on the part of immigration authorities, a streak that I certainly observed in at least the public face of the BP while I was in Arizona. As in any organization, it seems the members of the BP follow the rules in their individual ways.

The volunteers at No More Deaths told me that it's a crapshoot as to their reception by the BP agents they ecounter every day in the border region. NMD has made it their practice to approach any BP vehicles or agents they come across to offer assistance in the form of water, food, and medical care both to the BP -- who have been instructed to refuse aid -- and to anyone the BP might have in custody. Some agents welcome the volunteers, allowing them to distribute supplies or tend to anyone in need of medical care. Others refuse.

NMD and the Border Patrol have agreed -- unofficially -- to a form of cooperative coexistence. In theory at least, BP agents will allow volunteers to help anyone in need if the agents deem the situation safe enough and the aid necessary. NMD agree to not transport any migrants, even those in need emergency medical care, without receiving permission from Border Patrol. That should only happen when neither BP nor emergency services is able to respond to the situaiton, for whatever reason.

This agreement grew out of last year's arrest of two 23-year-old volunteers, Shanti Sellz and Daniel Strauss, who are currently awaiting trial for charges stemming from their attempting to drive three extremely ill migrants to a hospital. The case has drawn attention from human rights groups and spawned the "Humanitarian Aid is Never a Crime" branch of NMD's mission. It's even inspired at least one rousing folk song.


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