The U.S. government stands accused of treacherous conduct and a shameful disregard for human life after Border Patrol agents raided a medical station belonging to humanitarian group No More Deaths, also known as No Mas Muertes, on Thursday night.
The heavy-handed raid occurred in the sweltering triple-digit heat of Arizona's desert about 10 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border, netting four Mexican patients, arrested for unauthorized migration-related offenses, who were receiving medical care.
According to No More Deaths, the “unprecedented show of force” – which involved 30 armed Border Patrol personnel, 15 trucks, and a helicopter – was a clear breach of a written agreement reached between the organization and the Tucson Sector Border Patrol, in addition to an “egregious abuse” of international humanitarian norms that obstructed needed medical aid for those in need.
“Since 2013, the Tucson Sector of the Border Patrol has had a written agreement with No More Deaths (NMD) that they will respect the NMD camp as a medical facility under the International Red Cross standards, which prohibit government interference with humanitarian aid centers,” said No More Deaths founder John Fife. “That agreement now has been violated by the Border Patrol under the most suspicious circumstances.”
The Border Patrol claimed in a news release Thursday that they “detected four suspected illegal aliens wearing camouflage and walking north on a known smuggling route” using surveillance technology, after which they were tracked to the No Mas Muertes Camp near Arivaca but did not find foot sign of the individuals leaving the camp.” After attempting to “amicably” negotiate the handover of the unauthorized migrants with camp representatives, the agency claims, Tucson Sector Border Patrol sought search warrants prior to descending on the camp and surrounding it at 6 p.m. local time.
“The Border Patrol acknowledged that they tracked a group for 18 miles, but only after the migrants sought medical treatment did the Border Patrol seek to arrest them,” Fife added. “The choice to interdict these people only after they entered the No More Deaths camp is direct evidence that this was a direct attack on humanitarian aid. At the same time, the weather forecast is for record-setting deadly temperatures.”
Since 2004, countless volunteers with the group have provided year-round direct aid to migrants crossing the sprawling southwestern Arizona deserts by foot, as well as providing medical care, water and food to those making the tortuous journey. The group hopes to mitigate the conditions caused by brutal immigration enforcement policies that funnel migrants through the deadly frontier, where bleached human remains and the torn clothing of casualties are a common sight, while also raising awareness of a humanitarian crisis that has claimed over 7,000 lives. The group also provides support for recent deportees in northern Sonora, Mexico.
“No More Deaths has documented the deaths and disappearances of hundreds of migrants in the Arivaca corridor of the border,” said Kate Morgan, the group's abuse documentation and advocacy coordinator. “(Thursday's) raid on the medical aid station is unacceptable and a break in our good faith agreements with Border Patrol to respect the critical work of No More Deaths”.
No More Deaths, which is frequently targeted by far-right militias and politicians in a state where anti-immigrant fervor can reach violent proportions, fears that the raid exemplifies the dangers of the Trump administration, which promotes the expansion of an already-militarized homeland security state apparatus. In spite of this, the group says that it will continue its "mission to end death and suffering in the desert."