Nonprofit Newswire | Humanitarian Act Earns a Conviction

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September 8, 2010; Source: Time | It is hard to imagine that someone could be arrested, tried and convicted in this country for committing a humanitarian act. But, according to Time magazine, that’s what happened to Daniel Millis, a volunteer with No More Deaths, a faith-based organization operating out of Tucson. In 2008, after leaving bottles of drinking water on trails near the Arizona-Mexico border so that immigrants walking through the desert wouldn’t die of thirst, he was arrested by officers of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and charged with leaving “garbage” in a national wildlife refuge. After later admitting in court he had left the water on the trails, he was convicted and given a suspended sentence. The magazine reports that the U.S. Courts of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit overturned his conviction last week by a 2-1 vote. However, it adds, “people can still be arrested for doing exactly what Millis did.” Apparently Millis won his appeal because the court disagreed with the original charge that he left garbage behind. Had he been charged instead with abandoning property in a refuge without a permit, his conviction might not have been overturned. The magazine says Congress can make an exception to the law “and make clear that leaving supplies on public land in a reasonable way, in a good-faith effort to save lives, is not a crime.” It notes that No More Deaths, which works with another Tucson-based group called Samaritans, leaves water and other supplies in the desert to prevent immigrants from dying. It cites statistics from No More Deaths that so far this year some 214 human remains have been found in the south Arizona desert, “putting 2010 on track to be the deadliest year yet.”—Bruce Trachtenberg