18 Jan 2018 |Susan McFarland | UPI
Jan. 18 (UPI) — A humanitarian group has accused U.S. Border Patrol agents of destroying thousands of water jugs left out for migrants in an 800-square-mile desert corridor near the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona.
The group, No More Deaths, published a report, “Interference with Humanitarian Aid: Death and Disappearance on the US-Mexico Border,” with La Coalición de Derechos Humanos, which implicates the U.S. Border Patrolin vandalizing most of more than 3,000 gallons of the water, saying agents are the only ones who have regular access to all land jurisdictions where vandalism occurred.
A second part of the report, released Wednesday, says Border Patrol agents “routinely interfere” with humanitarian aid efforts in rugged and remote areas of the borderland, and that they “stab, stomp, kick, drain and confiscate bottles of water that humanitarian aid volunteers leave along known migrant routes in the Arizona desert.”
Border Patrol spokesman Christopher Sullivan told the Arizona Republic on Wednesday that destruction of water containers is not condoned or encouraged by the agency and agents could face corrective action including termination for tampering with the aid.
“All agents within Tucson sector have been instructed not to remove or destroy water stations, food or other resources left along the trails in the desert,” Sullivan said.
According to the report, the humanitarian group placed more than 31,500 gallons of water on trails used by migrants from 2012-15. More than 85 percent of it was used.
During that time, about 3,500 gallons were destroyed, a practice the group says continues. In 2017, two trail cameras show agents puncturing water containers and taking a blanket from an aid station during winter. Researchers say birds, cattle and other animals destroyed an additional 533 gallons of the water, and hunters and militia members also are partly to blame.
The report tells the story of a 37-year-old Mexican border crosser identified only as Miguel, who said, “They break the bottles so you can’t even use them to fill up in the tanks.”
“I needed water, some of the other people in the group needed water, but we found them destroyed. [I felt] helplessness, rage. They [the US Border Patrol] must hate us. It’s their work to capture us, but we are humans. And they don’t treat us like humans,” the border crosser said.
A report from the groups released last year accused Border Patrol agents of using excessive force on border crossers, including dog attacks, beatings upon arrest and assault with vehicles.