Four border-aid volunteers were sentenced to probation Friday following criminal convictions related to leaving humanitarian aid supplies on a wildlife refuge west of Tucson.
The four members of Tucson-based No More Deaths were sentenced by U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernardo P. Velasco to 15 months of unsupervised probation, fined $250, and banned from the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge.
Natalie Hoffman was convicted in January of operating a motor vehicle in a wilderness area. Hoffman and Oona Holcomb, Madeline Huse and Zaachila Orozco McCormick were convicted of entering a national wildlife refuge without a permit and abandoning property there. All of the charges are misdemeanors.
The charges came after they left water jugs and cans of beans on the refuge in August 2017. Dozens of sets of human remains have been found on the refuge in recent years, contributing to the nearly 3,000 sets of human remains believed to belong to people who died while crossing the U.S.-Mexico border that have been recovered in the wilderness of Southern Arizona since 2001.
“The border crisis in this country is a matter of life and death. History will not favor those on the wrong side of it,” Huse said in a news release following the sentencing hearing Friday. “Our border policy continues to push people into remote and dangerous parts of the desert.”
At the hearing, federal prosecutor Anna Wright requested Velasco sentence the volunteers to one year of probation and ban them from the wildlife refuge. She also recommended a $1,500 fine for Hoffman, who was the driver, and $1,000 fines for the other volunteers.
The sentencing came a week after the U.S. Attorney's Office agreed to drop misdemeanor charges against four other No More Deaths volunteers connected to leaving food and water on the Cabeza Prieta refuge in 2017.
Another volunteer, Scott Warren, faces similar charges for aid efforts on the wildlife refuge in June 2017. He also faces felony human-smuggling charges after Border Patrol agents said he was harboring two illegal border crossers at an aid station in Ajo in January 2018.
Warren’s trial on the misdemeanor charges of driving in a wilderness area and abandoning property is scheduled to start May 6.