United States border patrol agents are being accused by two humanitarian groups for their actions regarding supplies left in the Arizona desert to aid migrants in their quest to gain illegal entry to the U.S.
According to a report by No More Deaths and La Coalición de Derechos Humanos, which was published on Wednesday, the Tucson-based groups said the agents regularly sabotage water and other supplies with impunity in an attempt to deter and punish people who illegally cross from Mexico.
Volunteers found water gallons vandalized 415 times, on average twice a week, in an 800 sq mile patch of Sonoran desert south-west of Tucson, from March 2012 to December 2015, the report said. The damage affected 3,586 gallons. Border agents were also accused of vandalizing food and blankets and harassing volunteers in the field.
“Through statistical analysis, video evidence, and personal experience, our team has uncovered a disturbing reality,” according to the report, which claimed, “In the majority of cases, US border patrol agents are responsible for the widespread interference with essential humanitarian efforts.”
However, it also acknowledged that wildlife – as well as hunters, hikers and border militia members – have been responsible for damaging aid drops.
“The practice of destruction of and interference with aid is not the deviant behavior of a few rogue border patrol agents, it is a systemic feature of enforcement practices in the borderlands,” the report stated.
An agency spokesman pointed out that patrols and desert rescue beacons are frequently responsible for saving many migrants’ lives.
Caitlin Deighan, a spokesperson for No More Deaths, said the policy of militarizing the border and funneling migrants into remote, perilous desert, where thousands died, dated from President Bill Clinton’s era. “It’s been ongoing throughout every administration since.”
The report also quoted a 37-year-old Mexican border crosser named Miguel: “They break the bottles so you can’t even use them to fill up in the tanks. I needed water, some of the other people in the group needed water, but we found them destroyed. [I felt] helplessness, rage. They [the US border patrol] must hate us.”
The report is the second of a three-part series on death and disappearance on the border. The first part was released last year.