It’s been a long road for Scott Warren. He is a well-known humanitarian worker and volunteer who has been on the front line of attempting to prevent deaths from exposure of those people journeying through the Arizona desert after crossing the border from Mexico.
Warren was arrested by border patrol agents almost two years ago after he helped to provide water, food and lodging to two undocumented immigrants from El Salvador and Honduras. The government contended that the two men were in the country illegally, and that Warren attempted to hide them from law enforcement for 2 days. Warren, on the other hand, said all he was doing was providing aid to people who needed it, in the form of food, water and shelter. Warren was originally facing a sentence of up to 20 years in prison if he were convicted.
The first trial, in which the government initially alleged – but provided no evidence – that Warren conspired with a migrant activist, ended in a mistrial with a deadlocked jury. During that first trial, the government also offered immunity to the two asylum seekers if they would testify against Warren. After they testified at the first trial, they were promptly deported.
The second trial was accompanied by international calls for an end to the prosecution of Mr. Warren, claiming that it was an attempt by the Trump administration to criminalize humanitarian relief efforts, and to use that threat to deter immigration. And apparently, the jury was in tune with those who opposed the tactics of the border patrol and the U.S. government, at least in this case. After the conclusion of the trial, which lasted 6 days, the jury deliberated for only about 2 hours before returning a verdict of not guilty.
The most important aspect of the case, from a legal point of view, is that the mere providing of humanitarian aid does not in and of itself prove that the defendant is illegally harboring an immigrant. In other words, feeding and sheltering a person is not a crime.
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