Federal Prosecutors Drop Charges Against Migrant Aid Volunteers in Border Case

Published: Thursday, February 21, 2019 - 6:51pm
Updated: Thursday, May 9, 2019 - 8:18am

Activists say federal prosecutors dropped the charges against four members of their group Thursday who were working to find immigrants who were lost in the desert after crossing the border illegally. 

The decision to drop the charges brings to a close nearly half of the wide-ranging federal cases against No More Deaths. The nonprofit group has for years distributed water and food to migrants who’ve crossed the Arizona border illegally. No More Deaths argued in court that the four defendants were searching for three migrants in the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge along the border. A motion to dismiss filed by No More Deaths attorneys last year sums up their argument in this case:

"The current case is a textbook illustration of the policy concerns motivating the necessity defense. Defendants faced a choice between two evils — refusing to search for three missing persons at risk of dying in the desert after receiving a call for help, or entering the Refuge without a permit and driving a short distance on a road designated for government use only to aid with search and rescue. No one can dispute that Defendants chose the lesser harm by acting to prevent imminent harm to human life."

One of those missing was never found.

The group said each defendant will instead pay a $250 fine. Four more defendants were convicted with federal misdemeanors and will be sentenced next month. Another faces felony smuggling charges.