Above photo: US Customs and Border Patrol special operations unit, BORTAC, raid humanitarian aid camp. Photo from No More Deaths.
The government ramped up its efforts to stop humanitarian workers on the U.S.-Mexico border and raided the ‘No More Deaths’ aid station, Byrd Camp, arresting over 30 people.
The Friday, July 31 raid featured the U.S. Border Patrol, an armored vehicle, two helicopters, three ATVs, a couple dozen vehicles and BORTAC, a type of tactical unit that was recently deployed in Portland against protesters for Black lives.
🚨🚨🚨 UPDATE — At sunset last night, in a military-style assault, Border Patrol raided our humanitarian aid camp, chasing and arresting 30+ people who were receiving care and detaining all aid workers, whose phones were confiscated along w/ any video footage of the raid. pic.twitter.com/yiGAB98KYi
— No More Deaths (@NoMoreDeaths) August 1, 2020
Volunteers from No More Deaths/No Más Muertas, a humanitarian organization seeking to end death and suffering on the US-Mexico borderlands, have continually faced charges, surveillance, and threats by the government.
Along with helping to aid migrants and refugees with water, shelter, healthcare, and food, No More Deaths also releases investigative reports detailing abuses by the Border Patrol, which has retaliated with raids and other repressive actions.
In January of 2018, Dr. Scott Warren was arrested by Border Patrol just hours after the group released a 23-page report spotlighting the government’s interference with their humanitarian aid efforts in the southern desert of Arizona.
Exemplifying the pattern of targeting and retaliation, Friday evening’s raid was just days after No More Deaths released emails obtained through FOIA request spotlighting BORTAC’s role in a previous raid on Byrd Camp in 2017.
After the released emails and before Friday’s raid, enforcement agents entered Byrd Camp without a warrant on Thursday. They detained one person and then set up a security perimeter, shutting off others from receiving care in the camp.
NEW DOCUMENTS obtained by #FOIA request indicate the US Border Patrol union—a pro-Trump, anti-immigrant extremist organization—provoked the agency to raid our humanitarian aid camp and clinic in 2017. The documents also reveal #BORTAC’s involvement in the raid (1/x) pic.twitter.com/6F5fifHWiG
— No More Deaths (@NoMoreDeaths) July 29, 2020
Many people arrested during the raid were at the aid station receiving care by the No More Deaths volunteers who work as nurses, doctors, paramedics, and EMTs.
Border Patrol and BORTAC raided the No More Deaths Byrd Camp on July 31, 2020. Law enforcement agents reached into their armored vehicle during the raid on the humanitarian group. The interference into medical and humanitarian care has been proven to have deadly consequences for those passing through some of the most barren deserts in the U.S. In the past, Border Patrol agents have been recorded cutting open and emptying water jugs and cans of food at drop spots created by humanitarian volunteers. Border Patrol trashed the medical aid tents at Byrd Camp.
Dr. Scott Warren spoke against the raid on those seeking medical care and relief at the humanitarian camp:
“Yesterday, Border Patrol harmed thirty people in irreparable ways. On a daily basis those who migrate through the Arizona desert are targeted, terrorized, detained, and deported.
Last night we witnessed these tactics deployed against people who sought medical care and relief at our Byrd Camp aid station. As always when humanitarian aid in the borderlands is targeted, those who seek care are the ones that face the brunt of these violent escalations.”
A press release by No More Deaths stated that the Border Patrol had a warrant that “specified the seizure of all cell phones and paperwork, in a clear attempt to suppress documentation of their actions.”
This raid is one in a series of efforts by the U.S. government to quell the work of humanitarians seeking to help. For our past coverage of No More Deaths, see the documentary we published in 2017, titled ‘Crisis: Borderlands’.