Trial begins for border activist who helped migrants

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File - In this Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, file aerial image released by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, migrants, apprehended after illegally crossing along the U.S.-Mexico border near Lukeville, Ariz., are lined up. Mexico is at the top of the image, beyond the border fence. A border activist charged with helping a pair of migrants with water, food and lodging is set to go on trial in U.S. court in Arizona. Defendant Scott Daniel Warren has argued that his spiritual values compel him to help all people in distress. The trial is scheduled to begin Wednesday, May 29, 2019, in Tucson, with the 36-year-old Warren charged with harboring migrants and conspiring to transport and harbor two Mexican men found with him who were in the U.S. illegally. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection via AP, File)

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A border activist being tried in a federal court was helping two migrants with water, food and lodging last year and only intended "to provide basic human kindness," his lawyer told jurors Wednesday.

But prosecutors say they have evidence that 36-year-old Scott Daniel Warren conspired to harbor the migrants, and that they were not even in distress when they reached a private building used to provide aid to immigrants who just crossed the desert from Mexico into Arizona.

"This case is not about humanitarian aid," Walters said. "It's about Scott Warren and his decision to shield two illegal aliens from law enforcement."

The Arizona Daily Star reports Defense attorney Greg Kuykendall also said in his opening statement that prosecutors must prove his client intended to break the law to be found guilty in the case.

Scott Daniel Warren was arrested in 2018 when Border Patrol agents found him at a property used to provide aid to immigrants in Ajo, Arizona.

He's charged with harboring migrants and conspiring to transport and harbor two immigrant men found with him who were in the U.S. illegally.

The case is one of several against members of humanitarian aid groups who say 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 their client "could not, consistent with his conscience and spiritual beliefs, turn away two migrants in the desert."

The two migrants Warren helped were both ill, with one 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 traffic into Arizona's scorching deserts.

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Information from: Arizona Daily Star, http://www.tucson.com