William Walker, Warren’s lawyer, said he has worked with No More Deaths for many years and there had always been an understanding between the group and law enforcement.
“We have always had an understanding here with both the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Border Patrol and also the wilderness area managers that we are a neutral party,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “We don’t smuggle people, we don’t violate the law — what we do is we help to save lives and they’ve recognized that for years.”
He said that their group over time has faced some “periodic outbreaks of very minor charges” for putting out water jugs, but that those have “been dismissed right along for years without exception.”
Walker noted only one other case where two group volunteers were arrested in 2005, but that those felonies were thrown out by a federal judge. Two of the group’s volunteers were arrested after driving three immigrants from a desert location to a church in Tucson to receive medical attention from a doctor and nurse, according to The Associated Press. That indictment was eventually dismissed by a judge.
Warren was released on his own recognizance on Thursday, Walker said.
Carlos Diaz, Southwest Branch Chief for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said Tuesday evening that Warren’s arrest was a “legal law enforcement action” and it was “done properly.” He added that while the courts will now decide the outcome, “this was done as part of our responsibility to protect the border.”
Diaz also said that in June, Border Patrol raided a camp of the aid group in the Southern Arizona desert and arrested four people on immigration violations without incident.
A request for comment from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tucson was not immediately returned Tuesday.
Jeff Reinhardt, a volunteer with No More Deaths, said the region where Warren was providing assistance is one of the “deadlier parts of the desert.”
He added that 58 of the 128 sets of human remains of migrants found in Arizona in 2017 were found in that Ajo corridor.
“Scott has been instrumental in helping organize humanitarian aid in that region,” he said.
Warren’s arrest came hours after No More Deaths announced a report that implicated Border Patrol agents in destroying or tampering with gallons of water left out by the group at border crossings in videos spanning several years.