A border activist facing charges of harboring immigrants tried to hide two Central American men at a camp in southern Arizona and signaled directions that would help them avoid a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint, a prosecutor said Wednesday during closing arguments at the activist’s second trial.
Prosecutor Nathaniel Walters said the two immigrants didn’t need medical attention during their January 2018 encounter with activist Scott Warren and questioned the authenticity of Warren’s claim that he was “orienting” the men before they left the camp, which was run by a group that says it tries to prevent immigrants from dying in the desert.
“What they needed was a place to hide, and that’s what the defendant gave them, and that is an intent to violate the law,” Walters said.
Warren, a college geography instructor and member of the border group No More Deaths, contends he was fulfilling his mission as a humanitarian when he helped the two immigrants. He testified that he has never helped migrants hide or told them how to avoid authorities. He said he was orienting the men, so they wouldn’t get lost in the desert.
Warren’s attorney, Greg Kuykendall, told jurors that prosecutors hadn’t proven that his client had committed a crime and reminded them of Warren’s good intentions to help two men in need.
“We showed you that Scott’s intent was to end death and suffering in the desert,” Kuykendall said.
Warren’s first trial last summer ended in a mistrial after jurors deadlocked on the charges.
Warren, 37, and his supporters say President Donald Trump’s administration has increasingly scrutinized humanitarian groups that leave water in the desert and conduct search and rescue operations when they are asked to help find a missing migrant. But the judge presiding over the case has barred any mention of Trump.
Warren is one of nine members of No More Deaths who have been charged with crimes related to their work, although he’s the only one facing felony charges.
No More Deaths is a coalition of religious organizations, human rights advocates and individuals who provide food, water and medical assistance to immigrants crossing the Arizona desert from Mexico.
Immigrants who sneak into the United States through that terrain face many dangers, including walking for several days, often in the scorching heat. Thousands of immigrants have died crossing the border since the mid-1990s, when increased enforcement pushed many to Arizona's scorching desert.