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'Complete Disregard for Human Life': US Agents Threaten Christmas Eve Raid Against Humanitarians Giving Aid to Refugees Near Border

One volunteer noted the cruel irony of such actions "on the eve of a holiday meant to celebrate hospitality towards travelers from distant lands."

Laurel Grindy and Paul Nixon, both volunteers with Green Valley-Sahuarita Samaritans, a group that offers humanitarian aid to migrants in the Arizona-Sonora borderlands shared by the U.S. and Mexico, speak to a Border Patrol agent who was manning surveillance equipment near Nogales on July 14, 2019. (Photo: Daniel Woolfolk for AFP/via Getty Images)

Laurel Grindy and Paul Nixon, both volunteers with Green Valley-Sahuarita Samaritans, a group that offers humanitarian aid to migrants in the Arizona-Sonora borderlands shared by the U.S. and Mexico, speak to a Border Patrol agent who was manning surveillance equipment near Nogales on July 14, 2019. (Photo: Daniel Woolfolk for AFP/via Getty Images)

A humanitarian group that provides medical care, food, and safety to migrants and refugees along the U.S.-Mexico border sounded the alarm Thursday that federal agents are threatening to raid their operation despite the Christmas holiday and dangerously cold overnight temperatures that could make their services more needed than usual.

"These raids are violent acts designed to make migrants avoid seeking humanitarian aid, increasing the chances people will die or disappear in the desert."
—No More Deaths

No More Deaths volunteer Montana Thames drew attention to what she characterized as the cruel irony of the planned raid, which is expected to fall "on the eve of a holiday meant to celebrate hospitality towards travelers from distant lands."

According to No More Deaths, which on Thursday released a statement about U.S. Custom and Border Protection officials' pursuit of a warrant to ransack their camp, "This would be the third raid in five months, during a year where we've witnessed the highest number of recovered human remains found in Arizona."

"Border Patrol's continual harassment of Byrd Camp prevents patients from receiving essential care," the group said. "In July and October, Border Patrol conducted nighttime raids of Byrd Camp, descending on the camp with armored tanks, ATVs, a helicopter, and many marked and unmarked vehicles and arresting over 50 people."

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By deliberately driving "migrants in need of lifesaving care away from the humanitarian aid station, making the desert even more deadly... Border Patrol's policies are directly responsible for the crisis, death, and disappearance of people in the borderlands," the group added.

The consequences of criminalizing migration and humanitarian aid are deadly, No More Deaths explained. Since 2001, the remains of 3,365 deceased migrants have been recovered in the Arizona desert, according to the Pima County medical examiner. With 225 bodies having been recovered so far this year, up from 144 last year, 2020 is the deadliest year on record in the region.

Regarding the U.S. agents' planned Christmas Eve raid, Thames noted that "these actions are simply a continuation of the violent practices Border Patrol uses to terrorize those crossing the desert daily."

"No amount of reform," Thames said, "can change an agency that continuously targets people seeking humanitarian aid with violent military-style force," adding that funding ought to be diverted away from border militarization and put toward humane ends.

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