Four women aid volunteers face prison time after their conviction for leaving food and water for undocumented migrants. The women, part of the No More Deaths ministry of the unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson, left food and water inside an Arizona national wildlife refuge where undocumented migrants have previously died trying to enter the United States.
Federal Magistrate Bernardo Velasco convicted the four on Friday and could sentence them to up to six months in prison and fines of up to $500. The volunteers -- Natalie Hoffman, Oona Holcomb, Madeline Huse, and Zaachila Orozco -- were charged with entering a national wildlife refuge without a permit and abandonment of property.
According to a statement by No More Deaths, five other volunteers face charges for "efforts to place life-saving food and water" inside the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. Those volunteers will have trials in February and March.
Cabeza Prieta is Arizona's largest wilderness area, spanning 803,418 acres of isolated and rugged landscape of the Sonoran Desert. A joint investigation was launched by US and Mexican authorities in 2001 after at least 14 migrants died in a single incident after crossing the border in the refuge. They probably were abandoned in the desert by people smugglers, authorities said at the time. No More Deaths says 155 migrants have died in the area since 2001.