Things That Matter

A Judge Has Barred Scott Warren From Mentioning Trump By Name In His Second Trial About Leaving Water For Migrants

For all the horrible stories we read about immigration policies in the Trump era, which has revealed perhaps the worst of some people, we sometimes get acquainted with the good deeds of unsung heroes who risk their safety and even engage in legal battles to help others. Such is the case of an 37-year-old Arizonan man who is going on trial for the second time due to his volunteer work for an organization that helps migrants in need. Learn his name: Scott Warren. He could be seen as a true hero even if the authorities seem to disagree.

So who is Scott Warren?

This activist works with the organization No More Deaths, which provides basic survival needs to migrants who cross the US-Mexico border with an undocumented status. He hails from the small Arizonan town of Ajo, a mere 40 miles from the border. The group’s activities include dropping water in the desert to prevent severe dehydration (and possible death) among undocumented migrants. They also run a camp to help injured migrants, a building known as “The Barn”.

Warren and the organization basically help in preventing horrible deaths in the desert. Is caring for fellow human beings a crime now? It is important to stress out the gravity of the situation: thousands of migrants have died since the 1990s trying to cross the border into the Arizonan desert, a fierce landscape where even a small injury, let’s say a sprained ankle, can mean imminent death.

The first trial ended in a mistrial last June when the jury was deadlocked.

Credit: TruthOut

So this is the second time that Warren will face a judge and jury. Back in June he was arrested for giving migrants water. He has said that he was just aiding two men who were trying to cross the border. Records show that an anonymous call alerted the authorities about No More Death’s activities. The authorities closed in on the organization and in January 2018 Warren was arrested on two harbouring felony charges. Alongside him, two male Central American migrants were arrested and then deported. Warren insisted that they were in distress and was merely saving their lives.

The prosecutors argue that they were not under an imminent threat to their lives, and therefore Warren was conspiring with the undocumented men. And here his troubles began. Prosecutors also said that the conspiracy was effectuated when Warren allegedly gave the men directions on how to avoid a border patrol checkpoint after they left “The Barn”.

Now the second trial has started and prosecutors are requesting some pretty outlandish things… like not naming Trump!

The prosecutors are well aware of how politicized this trial has become, and are presenting the judge with some pretty over-the-top requests. Chief among them: they want to forbid Warren and the defense from mentioning Donald J. Trump and his administration. The reason behind this: Warren and is group have expressed that, under the Trump government, humanitarian border groups have become increasingly targeted by the authorities. The prosecutor insists that any mention of Trump would trigger prejudice and affect the outcome. The judge ruled Tuesday on the request and said he won’t allow the defense to inject politics (ie. Trump’s name) into the case.

As reported by The Guardian: “Warren’s defense attorneys have said that the government’s request would violate Warren’s rights and that the prosecution has not shown in what way it would suffer if the president were mentioned”.

As ABC 15 Arizona reports: “Greg Kuykendall, Warren’s attorney, said Trump is responsible for the prosecution of his client, and contended the Republican president should be mentioned ‘as frequently and repeatedly as anyone wants.”

So Trump is now a Voldemort case then? He shall not be named…

Do the authorities want to make an example of Scott Warren? This case could set legal and ethical precedents for future trials.

Credit: NoMoreDeaths.org

Warren is not the first member of No More Deaths to be arrested, but he is the only one who has been presented with felony charges. In fact, other members have been accussed of vandalism (allegedly interfering with security cameras even). In the first trial, Defense Attorney Greg Kuyendall presented his counter in the closing arguments: “Everything in this case points to the fact that Scott Warren never committed a crime. Scott’s whole life is about preventing suffering, healing suffering, and providing humanitarian aid”.

This case goes beyond Scott Warren and it is important because it can set a legal precedent in which other cases concerning humanitarian aid could be based. This case presents both ethical and legal issues that are complex and very politically charged in a day and age in which more help is needed than ever, and immigration issues are the cornerstone of political platforms on both sides of the aisle.

Protests Against ICE Detention Centers Reached New Heights As Airplanes Typed Messages In The Sky Across The U.S.

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Protests Against ICE Detention Centers Reached New Heights As Airplanes Typed Messages In The Sky Across The U.S.

Dee Gonzalez / In Plain Sight

A global pandemic is still gripping the United States – along with much of the world. But still many Americans headed outside over the long holiday weekend and, before the evening fireworks, were greeted by powerful anti-ICE messages written in the skies.

The skywriting campaign comes as much of the world’s attention is focused on Covid-19 and organizers hope to redirect some attention on the thousands of migrants who remain locked up in detention centers across the country.

Activists took to the skies at more than 80 sites across the country with a powerful message against U.S. immigration policy.

Over the July 4th weekend, two fleets of skytyping airplanes created artist-generated messages across the U.S. The fleet of aircraft targeted 80 different ICE detention facilities, immigration court houses, processing centers, and former internment camps. Written with water vapor, the messages are designed to be seen and read for miles.

Each message ended with #XMAP, which, when plugged into social media, directs users to an online interactive map that offers a view of the closest ICE facilities to the user.

Visitors to the event’s website are encouraged to donate to local funds like the Black Immigrant Bail Fund and join the #FreeThemAll campaign, which advocates for the release of detainees from crowded facilities, where social distancing is often impossible right now.

The ambitious project took a year to plan, and is one component of an artist-led protest against immigrant detention and America’s mass incarceration problem. With “In Plain Sight,” organizers are hoping to educate viewers—and to encourage the abolition of facilities such as these.

“I think the public is somewhat aware of what’s happening in detention centers—they’ve seen the images of kids in cages—but they don’t know the full scale,” said Cassils, in an interview with Quartz.

The team aimed to set a national record with its #XMAP campaign.

Credit: In Plain Sight

The artists reached out to the only skywriting company in the country (which owns the patent on skywriting) and learned that the largest campaign executed over U.S. soil involved about 80 sites and three fleets of planes. That established the project’s framework, and from there they went about the task of bringing on collaborators, many of whom have experiences with immigration and the detainment of oppressed minority groups.

The artists they tapped vary in age, gender identity, and nationality; some are formerly incarcerated, or are descended from the descendants of Holocaust survivors. Black, Japanese-American, First Nations and Indigenous perspectives are present, speaking to the historical intersections of xenophobia, migration, and incarceration.

The protests were seen throughout Southern California – from LA to San Diego.

Credit: In Plain Sight

In Southern California, the demonstration kicked off on the 4th of July at 9:30 a.m. above the Adelanto Detention Center, before traveling to downtown L.A., where 15-character messages will be left in the late morning airspace above immigration facilities, county and federal lockups and courthouses. The planes then traveled to the Arcadia and Pomona locations of internment camps where Japanese Americans where held prisoner during World War II.

Later in the afternoon, planes were seeing typing messages in the sky above the Terminal Island detention center, before traveling further south to Orange County and San Diego, where messages were left above courts and immigration offices.

The campaign also popped up in El Paso, TX, where a massacre last year left many Latinos dead.

Credit: In Plain Sight

Binational, El Paso-based artist Margarita Cabrera activated the El Paso-Juárez portion of the performance with her message “UPLIFT: NI UNX MAS” at the Bridge of the Americas.

“Uplift” refers to uplifting immigrant communities, as well as the border fence and other immigration detention facilities. “Ni unx más” was inspired by Mexican poet and activist Susana Chávez’s 1995 phrase “ni una muerta más,” or “not one more [woman] dead.” The phrase protests femicides in Mexico, particularly in Juárez. Cabrera used X to be gender-neutral. 

“This is a call to abolish this systematic violence and the incarceration and detention of our immigrants,” Cabrera told the El Paso Times. “We’re creating a sky activation, but we’re also grounding it with local events.”

Across the border in New Mexico, “ESTOY AQUI” and “SOBREVIVIRE” were respectively written over the Otero County Processing Center and Otero County Prison Facility. The messages draw from songs respectively by Shakira and Mexican pop star Monica Naranjo. Designed by artists Carlos Motta and Felipe Baeza, the full message, “I am here, I will survive,” is intended for both detainees and outside onlookers.

“We wanted to address those in the detention sites and acknowledge the fact that they are there, that we know they are there, and that they will be fine eventually even if their conditions are precarious and they are going through a difficult time right now,” Motta told the El Paso Times.

And in New York City, several major monuments became canvases for the activists’ message.

Credit: In Plain Sight

In New York City, the words “My pain is so big” were written over a detention center in downtown Brooklyn.

“To be human,” wappeared over Rikers Island and “Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejia,” the name of the first immigrant to die from Covid-19 in detention was projected at the Statue of Liberty monument in Ellis Island.

Here’s Everything You Should Know About Trump’s Plan To Further Limit Asylum For Migrants And Refugees

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Here’s Everything You Should Know About Trump’s Plan To Further Limit Asylum For Migrants And Refugees

Nicolas Chamm / Getty Images

In what many are calling the most sweeping changes to asylum law ever, the Trump administration has proposed new rules regarding how migrants and refugees qualify for asylum protection in the U.S.

The rules would have a major impact on the ability of people with a legitimate fear for their safety – or that of their family – to prove their case before U.S. asylum courts. In some cases, asylum seekers may not even be given a chance to pleas their cases before an immigration court as the rules could leave some decisions in the hands of front line screeners, such as Border Patrol agents.

Trump administration unveils sweeping plan to limit asylum claims.

The Trump administration has released its furthest-reaching plant yet when it comes to trying to change asylum law in the U.S. The administration is trying to change the meaning of “persecution” to make it harder for migrants and refugees, with legitimate fears of persecution and danger, to be able to secure asylum in the U.S.

The 161-page proposal, officially posted Monday in the Federal Register, would also streamline the asylum-approval process, letting immigration judges rather than immigration courts make rulings in asylum cases and redefining the definition of a frivolous application.

“Essentially, this rule tries, in a way that hasn’t been done before, to define what can be grounds for asylum,” said Jessica Bolter, an associate policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute.

The rule change could potentially bar relief to anyone who has passed through two countries before reaching the U.S. or who spent 14 days or more in one other country prior to arriving here. The administration also wants to bar asylum to anyone who has failed to timely pay U.S. taxes or who has been unlawfully present in the U.S. for a year or more.

It wants immigration judges to weigh someone’s illegal presence in the U.S. against them even though federal law specifically says people can seek asylum by crossing any part of the border and asking for it. And in addition to making fewer people eligible for asylum, it would give officers more power to deny initial asylum claims preemptively, with no need of a court hearing.

Critics of measure say the proposed changes would ‘represent the end of the asylum system as we know it.’

Credit: Nicolas Chamm / Getty Images

The new rules were quickly condemned to advocates like Families Belong Together, which called the proposed rule change “an assault on the fundamental right to seek asylum.”

“If fully implemented, they will gut years of progress in the U.S. to create bridges to safety for so many whose governments could not and would not protect them from severe harm and even death,” said a statement from Tahirih, which advocates for immigrants escaping gender-based violence.

The rule change would also put some of the most vulnerable people at increased risk of persecution.

Credit: Nicolas Chamm / Getty Images

For several years, the Trump administration has been working hard to keep asylum seekers from even reaching the U.S. border. As part of the government’s plan, the administration has signed ‘safe third country’ agreements with several Central American country’s – but several of these deals have shown to leave asylum seekers in increased danger.

In its deal with Guatemala, hundreds of non-Guatemalans have been sent to the country to apply for asylum there – predominantly women with young children, who may have well-founded fears of persecution. And the system has become so convoluted that many migrants and refugees were effectively compelled to abandon their asylum claims and return to the places they had fled in fear.

Meanwhile, at the U.S.-Mexico border, asylum seekers have been denied the most basic procedural safeguards, including the opportunity to present evidence or acquire a lawyer. Many had endured demeaning and coercive treatment by Border Patrol.

One Salvadoran woman told KITV that she was coerced into signing her “voluntary deportation” form at 2 a.m., believing it to be an asylum application. Soon afterward, officials chained her around her waist, ankles and wrists and sent her to Guatemala. “To them we are like bugs,” she said.

The new rules on asylum come just as the U.S. Supreme Court has said that Trump acted illegally in trying to end DACA.

In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled the Department of Homeland Security – and the Trump administration – had violated a federal administrative law with its policy ending DACA. DACA is the Obama-era program allowing undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children to live and work legally in the US.

The decision came as a bit of a surprise as many expected the court’s conservative majority to strike down the program in favor of Trump. However, the ruling effectively leaves the program in place until Congress a can take up the legislative process behind immigration and get something done for the benefit of DACA recipients and the nation.