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TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A border activist being tried in a federal court only intended "to provide basic human kindness" by helping two migrants with water, food and lodging last year, his lawyer told jurors Wednesday.
But prosecutors said they have evidence that 36-year-old Scott Daniel Warren conspired to harbor the migrants, and that they were not in distress when they made their way to a privately-owned building used to provide aid to immigrants who just crossed the desert from Mexico into Arizona.
"This case is not about humanitarian aid," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathaniel Walters. "It's about Scott Warren and his decision to shield two illegal aliens from law enforcement."
The Arizona Daily Star reported defense attorney Greg Kuykendall also said in his opening statement that prosecutors must prove his client intended to break the law for him to be found guilty of harboring migrants and conspiring to transport and harbor two immigrant men found with him who were in the U.S. illegally.
Warren was arrested in 2018 when Border Patrol agents found him at the property used to provide aid to immigrants in the southern Arizona town of Ajo, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the U.S.-Mexico border.
The case is one of several against members of humanitarian aid groups who have said their work on the border helping migrants in distress is increasingly under scrutiny.
They blame the administration of President Donald Trump for the crackdown, which includes the separate arrests of several other members of the group Warren volunteers with.
In a motion to dismiss the charges last week, Warren's defense team argued that Warren "could not, consistent with his conscience and spiritual beliefs, turn away two migrants in the desert."
The two migrants Warren helped were both ill and one was having chest pains, according to Kuykendall, who said Warren helped the men within the accepted legal and medical protocols.
"Scott intended one thing, to provide basic human kindness," Kuykendall told the jury.
He also said Warren never hid the migrants and "never encouraged them to commit the misdemeanor of illegal entry."
Thousands of migrants have died crossing the border since the mid-1990s when heightened enforcement pushed migrant traffic into Arizona's scorching deserts.
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