“Providing humanitarian aid should never be a crime,” write the Senators
Washington (June 28, 2019) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and thirteen of his colleagues today called on the Department of Justice to stop the practice of bringing charges against humanitarian aid workers at the border. In 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memorandum to federal prosecutors, urging them to prioritize for prosecution any cases involving transportation or harboring of aliens. DOJ prosecutors are increasingly using this guidance to bring criminal charges against aid workers at the border for activities related to their humanitarian work. In January 2018, DOJ brought charges against Dr. Scott Warren, a member of the faith-based organization No More Deaths, for delivering food, water, and clean clothes to migrants. In January 2019, four other volunteers were convicted on misdemeanor charges for leaving food and water in a wildlife refuge. According to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), more than 7,200 migrants have died crossing the southern border over the past twenty years, many from hunger, thirst, or heat-related illnesses.
“Aid workers at our border understand that they can play a pivotal role in preventing the needless death of migrants and asylum seekers,”write the Senators in their letter to Attorney General William Barr. “The decision to criminalize their work is a stunningly poor use of resources, and may be a de facto death sentence for desperate migrants navigating and unforgiving terrain.”
The letter is co-signed by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Chris Coons (D-Del.).
A copy of the letter can be found HERE.