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Arivaca humanitarian aid camp under Border Patrol surveillance

For the last 48 hours, Border Patrol agents have stationed themselves around the No More Deaths camp in the desert south of Arivaca, violating an agreement between the humanitarian aid group and the agency. 

Agents began their surveillance on Monday morning, when several agents and their vehicles arrived and began their watch on the camp, said Genevieve Schroeder, a volunteer with No More Deaths.

The camp, south of Arivaca acts as a humanitarian aid station, offering food, water and medical care for people crossing the desert north of the U.S.-Mexico border. 

At one point, an agent said he wanted to search the camp, which includes trailers and a military-surplus medical tent. But Schroeder and other volunteers refused to allow agents to conduct the search. An agent replied that he would get a warrant but so far that has not happened, Schroeder said. 

Instead, agents were posted on the hills surrounding the desert camp, and volunteers said that agents appear to be watching the group through binoculars. 

TucsonSentinel.com requested comment from the Tucson Sector Border Patrol's Public Affairs Office.

In an email from an unidentified agent, the office said that "The situation is still being investigated.  We are unable to provide additional information at this time." 

John Fife, one of the founders of No More Deaths, said that the surveillance violates an agreement with former Tucson Sector Chief Manuel Padilla, Jr. 

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Padilla left the Tucson Sector and was replaced by Chief Paul A. Beeson, who took command of the sector in mid-January. 

"Both Border Patrol and No More Deaths presented proposals to each other and then we negotiated an agreement with Border Patrol," Fife said. "The basis on this agreement was International Red Cross standards, defining the relationships between humanitarian groups and governments." 

"We're a humanitarian aid group, and people who need medical care, food and water should have access to that. That's the whole point of having these agreements between non-governmental aid groups and governments," Fife said. 

Fife called the community liaison office on Monday morning and was told that Beeson was out-of-town, but that the office would set up a meeting with No More Deaths. 

"I told him we should resolve this issue with a meeting, not with surveillance and harassment out in the desert," Fife said.

Last April, Padilla touted the agency's relationship with humanitarian aid groups, saying that his office was working closely with the Border Action Network and Tucson Samaritans to provide aid and rescue efforts for people crossing the Sonoran desert. 

During a press conference in the desert south of Amado, Padilla said that the mission of humanitarian groups was "to save lives, which is a very honorable mission. So, how can we bring life saving efforts together?" 

On Monday, the agency sent out a press release about the Missing Migrant Team, an effort to increase the numbers of rescues, as well as the recovery of remains in the Arizona desert. 

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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1 comment on this story

Mar 16, 2016, 10:05 pm
-1 +1

The key word is former. Padilla is no longer in charge and if the new guy has any wherewithal, he won’t trust No More Deaths. They ‘ll harbor illegal aliens when they think they can get away with it. They want to help them get into the United States.

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No More Deaths

A Border Patrol agent uses binoculars to surveil the No More Deaths camp on Wednesday.