Two groups dedicated to providing humanitarian aid to migrants trying to cross the Arizona desert says their efforts are being systematically sabotaged by Border Patrol agents. In a report released this week, No More Deaths and La Coalicion de Derechos Humanos say the agents pour out gallons of water left for the migrants and destroy the containers so they can't be reused, causing some migrants to die of thirst in the desert. The report, which includes video evidence, says the agents also destroy supplies of food and blankets. The "destruction of and interference with aid is not the deviant behavior of a few rogue border patrol agents, it is a systemic feature of enforcement practices in the borderlands," the report says.
Hunters, militia members, and others also destroy the food and water drops, but Border Patrol agents are responsible for most of the vandalism, according to the Tucson-based groups, which recorded 415 instances of destruction, affecting 3,586 gallons of water, between 2012 and 2017 in an 800-square-mile patch of Sonoran desert. The groups also accuse agents of harassing volunteers. Border Patrol spokesman Steve Passament tells the Guardian that destroying food and water caches is not agency policy. "We don’t want to see anyone out there die. We have to do our enforcement job and we do it as humanely as possible," he says. "We want to save lives." He says agents will be disciplined if there is evidence of them destroying humanitarian aid supplies. (Read more Border Patrol stories.)