Humanitarian groups working along the US-Mexico border have video footage showing US border patrol officers systematically destroying water supplies meant for migrants crossing the border. Ryan Devereaux writing for the Intercept reported that an article published by the Tucson-based groups No More Deaths and La Coalición de Derechos Humanos claimed volunteers found destroyed water supplies as many as 412 times between 2012 and 2015, accounting for over 3500 gallons of water.
Although some of the areas where water supplies had been damaged or confiscated are populated by hunters, anti-immigrant militiamen and others, the humanitarian groups now say they think most of the damages were committed by border agents.
The Intercept article reports that the groups said, “It is not [their] claim that the U.S. Border Patrol is exclusively responsible for the vandalism of water supplies…however … given the scope of destruction, [they] conclude that the only actors with a sufficiently large and consistent presence across a sufficiently wide area of the desert, during periods when hunting is both authorized and prohibited, are agents of the U.S. Border Patrol.” The Tuscon-based group has had eye-witness reports of vandalism to water supplies by border patrols on various occasions, and now some incidents have been captured on video.
According to Ryan Devereaux, a 2017 report by the New York Times found that during the past sixteen years over 6,000 bodies have been found alongside the US border with Mexico. Many of those migrants died of dehydration.
The Border Patrol agency has responded to the videos, saying that they, “encourage communication [and] cooperation with any agency [or] organization to better serve and protect those within our nation’s borders.” Steven Passement, special operations supervisor for the Tucson sector of the Border Patrol, explained specific steps his team takes to prevent deaths of illegal immigrants crossing the border. According to Passement, those steps include but are not limited to public awareness campaigns that are meant to encourage migrants to immigrate legally as well as to inform them about the risks of crossing the border illegally. The Intercept article noted that every year it becomes more difficult to cross the border illegally, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Groups like No More Deaths and La Coalición de Derechos Humanos criticize this change. To them, it is not the border patrol that should be increased, but instead immigration policies should be updated, making it easier for people to immigrate legally. As long as people have a legitimate motivation to cross the border, many will not shy away from it due to stronger border control. In a January 2018 Guardian article, Carrot Quinn writes, “The US/Mexico borderlands had been restructured as a deathtrap.”
As Quinn reported, the situation continues to develop. As of January, 2018, humanitarian workers with No More Deaths and other organizations have been arrested for providing migrants with food and water. Among these arrested humanitarian workers is Scott Warren, an Arizona State University professor who was allegedly seen handing out food and water to two migrants.
Ryan Devereaux, “U.S. Border Patrol Systematically Destroyed Water Supplies Left for Migrants in Desert, Report Says.” The Intercept, January 17, 2018, https://theintercept.com/2018/01/17/u-s-border-patrol-systematically-destroyed-water-supplies-left-for-migrants-in-desert-report-says/.
Carrot Quinn, “Why Was This Man Arrested for Giving Water to Migrants Crossing the Border?” The Guardian, January 26, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/global/2018/jan/26/scott-warren-no-more-death-arrested-migrants-water.
Student Researcher: Vicky Jordan (North Central College)
Faculty Evaluator: Steve Macek (North Central College)
Editor’s Note: For past Project Censored coverage of this topic, see “A ‘Culture of Cruelty’ along Mexico-US Border,” story #10 from Censored 2014: https://www.projectcensored.org/10-culture-cruelty-along-mexico-us-border/