HUMANITARIAN CONVICTED OF LITTERING SENTENCED TO COMMUNITY SERVICE, BANNED FROM REFUGE

 
Volunteers Vow to Continue Efforts, Demand End to Border Militarization

On Tuesday, August 11 No More Deaths volunteer Walt Staton (who is also an editor with Arizona Indymedia) was sentenced to 300 hours of community service and 1 year unsupervised probation by federal Magistrate Jennifer Guerin. Staton was convicted on June 3, 2009 for littering, after placing clean bottles of drinking water along known migrant trails in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (BANWR). Staton is also banned from entering the refuge for one year.

Staton, who is moving to the LA area next week to begin seminary school, stated that he will continue to support No More Deaths' life-saving work, and believes that both humanitarian groups and the government should pursue the most effective tactics possible to prevent needless suffering and death along the border.

Since the mid-1990s, U.S. border policy has been focused on channeling unauthorized migration into remote and fragile desert areas. This has resulted in more than 5,000 deaths along the U.S./Mexico border, and damage to protected wildlife habitat. Since 2001, officials with BANWR have refused to approve permits for humanitarian activities on the refuge. read more>>> | www.nomoredeaths.org | See also: "Land managers and humanitarian organizations caught in the crosshairs"

Tucson, AZ: On Tuesday, August 11 No More Deaths volunteer Walt Staton was sentenced to 300 hours of community service and 1 year unsupervised probation by federal Magistrate Jennifer Guerin. Staton was convicted on June 3, 2009 for littering, after placing clean bottles of drinking water along known migrant trails in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (BANWR). Staton is also banned from entering the refuge for one year.

In response to the sentence, Bill Walker, Staton’s attorney, made the following statement:

“I think that the judge was very brave in not inflicting the kind of punishment that the U.S. attorney recommended. She didn’t impose a harsh fine, nor did she give 5 years probation, which is what they wanted. The U.S. Attorney’s office, on the other hand, was awful in the way they conducted themselves throughout the proceedings. They politicized this case, and made significant misrepresentations in their statements to the Court. They spent untold thousands of dollars prosecuting this case when they should be going after terrorists and others who threaten our communities. There is no reason for them to have gone after somebody who was simply doing humanitarian work, the way that they did.”

Staton, who is moving to the LA area next week to begin seminary school, stated that he will continue to support No More Deaths' life-saving work, and believes that both humanitarian groups and the government should pursue the most effective tactics possible to prevent needless suffering and death along the border.

"Before the sentencing this morning, I read a story in the local paper about another body of a migrant discovered in the desert. We have to continue working towards bringing these deaths to an end," Staton said.

Letters of support for Staton had been delivered to Magistrate Guerin from the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas, and former U.S. Attorney Bates Butler, among others.

2009 is set to be one of the deadliest years on record along the Arizona-Mexico border. Already, the U.S. Border Patrol reports 161 migrant deaths in its Tucson sector. In the past week alone, 7 bodies of unauthorized migrants were recovered in southern Arizona.

Since 2001, officials at BANWR have systematically refused to approve permits that would allow humanitarian groups to provide adequate drinking water on the wildlife refuge. Following the July 9, 2009 citation of thirteen additional humanitarian volunteers, members of No More Deaths, Tucson Samaritans and Humane Borders have sat down with various officials, including Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, regional U.S. Fish and Wildlife director Chris Pease, and BANWR manager Mike Hawkes to attempt to resolve this impasse.

Since the mid-1990s, U.S. border policy has been focused on channeling unauthorized migration into remote and fragile desert areas. This has resulted in more than 5,000 deaths along the U.S./Mexico border, and damage to protected wildlife habitat. Volunteers from No More Deaths consistently work to mitigate the environmental impact of these policies, by incorporating trash cleanup into their regular patrols. Each year, No More Deaths removes hundreds of bags of trash from the southern Arizona desert.

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