TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A border activist being tried in a federal court for helping two migrants with water, food and lodging last year only intended “to provide basic human kindness,” his lawyer told jurors Wednesday.
Defense attorney Greg Kuykendall also said in his opening statement that prosecutors must prove his client intended to break the law to be found guilty in the case.
Scott Daniel Warren was arrested in 2018 when Border Patrol agents found him at a property used to provide aid to immigrants in Ajo, Arizona.
He’s charged with harboring migrants and conspiring to transport and harbor two Mexican men found with him who were in the U.S. illegally.
Prosecutors have argued that migrants Kristian Perez-Villanueva and Jose Arnaldo Sacaria-Goday were never in any real distress.
The case is one of several against members of humanitarian aid groups who say their work on the border helping migrants in distress is increasingly under scrutiny.
They blame the administration of President Donald Trump for the crackdown, which includes the separate arrests of several other members of the group Warren volunteers with.
In a motion to dismiss the charges last week, Warren’s defense team argued their client “could not, consistent with his conscience and spiritual beliefs, turn away two migrants in the desert.”
The two migrants Warren helped were both ill, with one having chest pains, according to Kuykendall, who said Warren helped the men within the accepted legal and medical protocols.
“Scott intended one thing, to provide basic human kindness,” Kuykendall told the jury.
He also said Warren never hid the migrants and “never encouraged them to commit the misdemeanor of illegal entry.”
Thousands of migrants have died crossing the border since the mid-1990s when heightened enforcement pushed traffic into Arizona’s scorching deserts.
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