When Humanitarian Aid is a Crime

Print Share on LinkedIn More

October 15, 2010; Source: The Tucson Citizen | One person’s humanitarian act may be another person’s act of treason, according to documentary filmmaker Karl Hoffman writing in the Tucson Citizen. He examines two groups, No More Deaths and Samaritans (formerly the Samaritan Patrol), both of which are known for leaving jugs of water in the Sonoran Desert for undocumented immigrants to use.

Their concern is that once immigrants cross the border and enter the desert, many die while wandering through the desert on their way to destinations in Arizona and elsewhere. To these groups, it is a humanitarian act to provide water to these immigrants regardless of their legal status, as the alternative for many of them is dehydration and death. Hoffman links these two groups with the Sanctuary movement of the 1980’s that helped Salvadoran political refugees enter the U.S. He contends that the Sanctuary movement actually helped many illegal immigrants into the U.S. (he calls them “Gorilla fighters” who had been denied legal asylum by the “Regan administration”) and blames them for the growth of the Salvadoran gang, Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS13), which he says has 70,000 gang members here.

As products of the Sanctuary movement, No More Deaths and the Samaritans through their water-bottle aid to border-crossers, in Hoffman’s worldview, are supporting organized smuggling. He suggests that conservatives are reluctant to criticize these two groups because they are faith-based organizations (liberals won’t criticize because they support smuggling human cargo, he implies). Hoffman’s a little short on his research, crediting the “Unitarian Universalistic Funding Program” (as opposed to the Unitarian Universalists) for financially supporting these groups—just one of several “social justice ministry” funders that he characterizes as “revolutionary or anarchist.”

Hoffman’s conclusion is no surprise: “These anti government groups should not be allowed to put water in any form in the Sornan [sic] Desert as the act is in reality not humanitarian aid but by all rights it may be considered treason.” There’s no question that the undocumented immigration across the southern border of the U.S. is a vexing issue, mixing the aspirations of poor Mexicans with the exploitation they face at the hands of smugglers and drug cartels. But 250 Mexican immigrants have died crossing the Arizona border since October 2009. Hoffman asks, “Is there a point when Humanitarian Aid really does becomes a crime?” —Rick Cohen