An Arizona geography teacher was found not guilty Wednesday of harboring undocumented immigrants who had crossed the US–Mexico border, a decision that came months after a jury first deadlocked on charges stemming from his volunteer work at the border.
Scott Warren — who volunteered with the humanitarian group No More Deaths, which operates a camp that helps injured immigrants and regularly drops off water in the southwest Arizona desert — faced two counts of illegally harboring an undocumented immigrant.
The case marked the second time prosecutors had charged Warren in relation to helping two men from Central America. The first time, prosecutors charged him with one count of conspiracy to transport or shield undocumented immigrants in addition to two charges of harboring.
Prosecutors dropped the conspiracy to transport charge after his first trial ended in a hung jury.
"The government failed in its attempt to criminalize basic human kindness," Warren said on the steps of the courthouse.
Federal prosecutors alleged that Warren had done more than just offer humanitarian aid to the two undocumented men, adding that he attempted to hide the men from authorities inside a small building in Ajo, Arizona, called "the Barn."
According to court documents, on Jan. 17, 2018, Border Patrol agents were conducting surveillance at the Barn, which aid workers used to store supplies such as water and food, when they saw Warren with two men they suspected were undocumented immigrants.
The Border Patrol agents and Pima County sheriff's deputies went to the Barn and spoke with the two men; they told authorities they had been given the address to the building, where they were told they could find food and water. Additionally, the two immigrants said Warren gave them clean clothes and a place to sleep for three days.
The agents arrested Warren and the two undocumented immigrants.
Immigrant advocates and supporters of Warren's called the timing of the arrest suspicious because it came hours after No More Deaths released videos of Border Patrol agents destroying jugs of water that volunteers had left in the desert.
After he was acquitted Wednesday, Warren spoke of the two undocumented men he was arrested with in 2018, Kristian and Jose, and others making the dangerous trek through the desert.
"As we stand here, people's brothers, sister, father, spouses, and children are in the midst of the perilous desert crossing," he said. "The need for humanitarian aid continues."
Since Warren was arrested, the Trump administration has ramped up its efforts to install a 30-foot-high border wall in Arizona.
"Let’s all take a deep breath, get some rest, and be ready for and open to whatever comes next," Warren said.