Federal charges against four No More Deaths volunteers are dropped

No More Death volunteers regularly leave supply for immigrants in the desert along the border with Mexico. (Photo by Nicole Ludden/Cronkite News)

TUCSON – Federal misdemeanor charges have been dropped against four humanitarian aid workers who faced criminal convictions for their work on the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge.

Caitlin Deighan, Zoe Anderson, Logan Hollarsmith and Rebecca Grossman-Richeimer no longer face federal charges, but each has been fined $250, No More Deaths said in a release Thursday.

Deighan was charged with driving in a wilderness area. Deighan, Anderson, Hollarsmith and Grossman-Richeimer were charged with entering a national wildlife refuge without a permit.

The four are part of No More Deaths, a volunteer organization that has been leaving aid for crossing migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border for more than a decade. In January, four other No More Deaths volunteers were found guilty of federal misdemeanors for leaving aid on the Cabeza Prieta refuge in August 2017. Sentencing in those cases is set for next month.

“Today might be a victory for No More Deaths, but people continue to die and disappear every day in the desert,” Hollarsmith said. “Our hearts remain with the families of the disappeared. As long as border policy funnels migrants into the most remote corridors of the desert, the need for a humanitarian response will continue.”

No More Deaths said the charges that were dismissed stemmed from incidents in July 2017 when the group’s “Search and Rescue Hotline” received a call about three migrants in distress in the refuge, which covers forbidding terrain along 56 miles of the border with Mexico and is a frequent site of migrant deaths. The four volunteers immediately launched a search but without success. As the four were leaving the refuge, they were “detained and questioned by Fish and Wildlife officials and Border Patrol,” No More Deaths said, adding that charges were not filed until months later.

The sheriff’s office and Border Patrol were notified about the three lost migrants, No More Deaths said, but they “initially declined to mobilize resources to respond.”

Two of the migrants were found alive, the group says the third migrant was never found. When other No More Deaths volunteers attempted to continue the search, they were denied access to the refuge, No More Deaths said.

According to the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office, the remains of 2,816 undocumented border-crossers have been discovered from 2000-17. Of these, 137 have been found in the Cabeza Prieta refuge.
In the cases that concluded last month, No More Deaths volunteer Natalie Hoffman was found guilty of all three charges brought against her; Oona Holcomb, Madeline Huse and Zaachila Orozco-McCormick were found guilty of the two charges brought against them.

The volunteers’ sentencing is set for March 1. They face a maximum penalty of six months prison time and a $250 fine each.

A fifth volunteer, Scott Warren, is awaiting trial for both felony and misdemeanor charges of harboring and conspiracy related to humanitarian aid work. His trial is set to begin in late May. Warren has taught in the past as a faculty associate at Arizona State University.
Federal prosecutors in the cases against No More Deaths did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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