I, as a general matter of policy as Editor in Chief, tend to strenuously avoid articles that delve into religious issues. We have a sister publication, National Candle, whose wheelhouse is just that.
However, rules are made to be broken.
Had Jesus been incarnated in the flesh in the American Southwest and brought light, hope and salvation to residents and immigrants alike, in the border zones of the Sonora Desert between the United States and Mexico, He would have found himself under the close scrutiny of the Border Patrol and probably anti-immigrant vigilantes as well.
He would be a political enemy of Donald Trump. Eventually, He would be arrested on false charges and hauled into a federal court.
Jesus is here in Spirit and this time, it is His servants that are facing the heavy hand of government prosecution (and persecution). About this time, you are probably wondering, “what IS he talking about?” If so, let me explain.
Scott Warren, 36, is a young man who volunteers with a non-profit organization called “No More Deaths” that provides life saving aid to migrants. He is now being tried in federal court in Pima County on human trafficking charges.
No More Deaths shares a small, cabin sized building in Ajo, Arizona with other border aid groups. Scott Warren had returned to the simple structure that border aid workers have nicknamed, “The Barn” on January 14 of last year, from a visit to the grocery store to pick up supplies. When he did, he encountered a couple of men standing in the doorway.
Warren, in testimony before the court, said he asked the men who they were. Jose Sacaria Goday, 21, from Honduras, and 23 year old Kristian Perez Villanueva of El Salvador told Warren that they had been walking non stop the previous night and morning since “jumping the wall” at the U.S. border and were without food or water.
Warren could see the exhaustion and dehydration with his own eyes. Warren invited the men to stay at ‘The Barn’ to recuperate temporarily. Warren got the men situated and over the next few days, visited them only periodically, as he is a teacher at Tohono O’odham Community College.
What Warren didn’t know is that Border Patrol agents had been watching No More Deaths aid workers and The Barn for a considerable period of time, possibly weeks. On January 17, when Warren returned to the Barn to check in on the men and host a volunteer meeting with a group of young people from Flagstaff, a “convoy” of Border Patrol agents and Pima County Sheriff’s deputies rolled up to The Barn, Warren said. Warren was arrested within the first 90 seconds of their arrival without any opportunity to explain his actions.
The arrest was a pre-ordained matter. The federal prosecutors handling this case, told the jury that Warren had been networking with a contact, Irineo Mujica, who ran a migrant shelter in Sonoyta, Sonora, for the purpose of coordinating human trafficking.
What the prosecutors did not tell the jury, is that No More Deaths has never participated in human trafficking, but that their humanitarian efforts have drawn the ire of Border Patrol agents in the sector. No More Deaths has released video showing agents visiting numerous locations where border aid workers had placed life saving water for dehydrated immigrants, pouring the water on the ground, destroying the containers and laughing at their own handiwork. Politifact, describes the video I have posted below:
The 1 minute and 30 seconds video includes footage of Border Patrol agents kicking and emptying into the ground bottles of gallons of water. Timestamps for some of the clips in the video suggest they were recorded in 2011 and 2013. The group behind the videos also said it included footage from 2017.
The Intercept, details that the two federal prosecutors, assistant U.S. attorneys Anna Wright and Nathaniel J. Walters, had Warren in their crosshairs for a year and a half before the arrest:
“Wright and Walters’ interest in Warren and the humanitarian groups he volunteers with, particularly the faith-based organization No More Deaths, began in 2017, when the assistant U.S. attorneys brought federal misdemeanor charges against several members of the group — Warren included — for leaving water and other humanitarian aid supplies on public lands where migrants routinely die.”
The prosecutors have tried to sell to the jury a circumstantial case of Scott Warren being a co-conspirator with Mujica. The case is embarrassingly weak. It is basically a case founded on presumed incriminating evidence focused on Mujica himself and Warren’s limited interactions with Mujica are peripheral at best – involving a call made by Mujica to Warren about the possibility that the remains of a migrant, might be spotted in the vicinity and if he or his compatriots were to discover it, could he get back in touch .
Interestingly, Mujica has not been charged or arrested by U.S. authorities, even though the bulk of the evidence points to his efforts to assist migrants as regional director of Pueblo Sin Fronteras (People Without Borders).
Pueblo Sin Fronteras is an organization whose humanitarian efforts on behalf of asylum seekers and refugees from violence in Central America, has angered Donald Trump. Supporters believe No More Deaths and Scott Warren are being railroaded on trumped up charges to make an example of them to other border aid / rescue groups.
As part of the negotiations between the Trump administration and Mexico over Trump’s threats to impose tariffs on imports, Mexico has granted Trump the sacrificial lamb he was seeking – arresting Mujica in the northern border city of Sonoyta and charging him with illegally transporting migrants.
Alex Mensing, a U.S.-based member of Pueblo Sin Fronteras, told the Los Angeles Times, “It’s really disappointing to see this level of criminalization of migrants. It’s not a coincidence,” Mensing said of the actions taken Thursday against migrant activists in Mexico. “I think that the [tariff] threat is being taken seriously by Mexican authorities, and they felt the need to crack down on some of the people who have been speaking up against human rights abuses and standing up for migrants.”
Scott Warren, if convicted on all counts of the charges against him, could potential face a maximum of 20 years in prison. For what? Not for being an operative in some insidious human trafficking network as Wright and Walters claim, but by observing the teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as outlined in the New Testament.
Jesus, for anyone who has actually read the gospels, was seen as an enemy of oppressive government authority and was considered by the religious authorities of his day, an even more potent threat to their rule over the population of Palestine.
Jesus was not a proponent of organized religion and the ruling authorities knew it. His definition of religion, was quite narrow. The only role of religion as such, was stated by Him in these terms, in telling the disciples:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, “I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
There is no condition of immigration status pegged to this. Jesus is not telling us to interrogate the needy as to whether they illegally crossed a national border.
He taught you, me and Scott Warren to do what he and his fellow volunteers were doing in providing humanitarian aid to desperate human souls.
Had Jesus been caught doing so by the U.S. Border Patrol – on the order of federal prosecutors, He would have been arrested, accused of conspiracy of human trafficking and would be facing years of incarceration.
I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but this to me is a gross example of prosecutorial abuse and an alarming perversion of justice. You don’t need to be a Christian to see what is terribly wrong with how the system is being used as a blunt instrument against Scott Warren, but if you claim to be a Christian, you can’t reconcile what Holy Scripture says about providing aid and comfort to strangers and the sojourner, with what your government is doing in this case.
Something tells me that Donald Trump’s devoted evangelical followers will be sleeping through all of this.