Prosecutors Want Migrant Helper Banned From Speaking About Trump at Trial

Scott Warren, a humanitarian aid worker and No More Deaths volunteer, faces retrial for aiding two migrants in the summer of 2017.
Scott Warren, a humanitarian aid worker and No More Deaths volunteer, faces retrial for aiding two migrants in the summer of 2017. No More Deaths
UPDATE: Scott Warren was found not guilty on both harboring charges on November 20. “The government failed in its attempt to thwart basic human kindness,” Warren said in his post-retrial statement.

Federal prosecutors in humanitarian aid worker Scott Warren's case have filed a motion attempting to prevent him from speaking about the Trump administration in his upcoming trial.

"The United States of America, by and through its undersigned attorneys, files its motion in limine to prevent the defense from mentioning the President, his administration, or his administration’s policies," the motion filed on Thursday states. "Any reference to the President or his administration would be irrelevant and unfairly prejudicial."

Warren, a volunteer with the humanitarian aid group No More Deaths, is scheduled to stand trial again on November 12.

The federal case against Warren for aiding asylum seekers and border crossers in Arizona has received international attention, especially after Warren's first trial ended in a hung jury on June 11.

Though charges against Warren of criminal conspiracy to transport "illegal aliens" have been dropped, federal prosecutors are still attempting to charge him on two counts of “harboring illegal aliens” in the retrial. He could serve two decades in prison if found guilty.

The charges stem from his arrest by U.S. Border Patrol agents in Ajo, Arizona in January 2018, after helping provide food, water, and lodging to two undocumented immigrants that authorities said entered the country illegally.

Prosecutors have said Warren deliberately attempted to hide the two men, from El Salvador and Honduras, from law enforcement for several days. Warren and his defense have consistently stated he followed No More Deaths group’s protocol, and was, among other things, screening the men for illnesses and providing them with sustenance.

Internationally, activists have long decried the federal government's prosecution of Warren, who claims the criminalization of humanitarian workers who aid migrants is part of the Trump administration's larger crackdown on immigration into the country. From the beginning, defense attorneys have stated the case is part of the president's attempts to deter migration through the Southwest border.

Now the U.S. government is attempting to keep conversations about this connection out of court.

U.S. attorneys filed the new motion on October 31 after learning two days prior that Warren's defense might mention President Trump or his policies, according to the document.

"Any mention of the President or his administration should be precluded as irrelevant because it would not have 'any tendency to make a fact more or less probable' and is not 'of consequence in determining the action,'" the motion states.

No More Deaths, an organization founded in 2004, is dedicated to preventing exposure deaths of people during their treks through the harsh Arizona desert after crossing the border. No one knows the true scope of this crisis, but a report by activists in 2016 estimated that nearly 9,000 bodies of migrants have been found in the desert since the expansion of border enforcement in the 1990s.

The crisis has led many Arizonans, including Warren and members of No More Deaths, to try to make the migrants' passage safer by placing water containers in the desert or providing food and shelter.

“In the time since I was arrested in January 2018, no fewer than 88 bodies were recovered from the Arizona desert,” Warren said in a brief statement after prosecutors announced their intention to retry the 36-year-old geography teacher in June. “The government’s plan in the midst of this humanitarian crisis? Policies to target undocumented people, refugees and their families. Prosecutions to criminalize humanitarian aid, kindness and solidarity.”

Federal prosecutors have not yet responded to requests for comment.

Gregory Kuykendall, Warren's attorney, declined to comment ahead of the trial. 
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Hannah Critchfield was an editorial fellow for Phoenix New Times starting in 2019.