LatinaLista — Critics of No More Deaths’ volunteer Walt Staton say the 27-year-old web designer, theology student and human rights advocate has to go to jail because he broke the law.
In June 2009, Staton was convicted for littering when U.S. Border Patrol agents spotted him in December 2008 placing unopened gallon containers of water, in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge southwest of Tucson, for immigrants illegally crossing the Arizona desert to arrive in the U.S.
On August 13, a Judge Guerin delivered his punishment for Staton and ordered Staton to pick up trash for 300 hours, sentenced him to a year of unsupervised probation and banned him from the refuge for a year.
Walt Staton labels plastic water jugs left for migrants illegally crossing the Arizona desert to better track the routes migrants use to illegally cross into the U.S.
Staton refused to comply with the 300 hours of trash pick-up because, as he told the judge, leaving the water is not littering but a matter of international human rights.
Last month, Staton wrote Guerin saying,
“The court characterized my actions as ‘civil disobedience’ at the August 13th sentencing, and also used similar language during the proceedings of the trial. This is inaccurate, as civil disobedience refers to actions that intend to expose an unjust law by deliberately breaking that law.
“On December 15, 2008, I had no intention to violate the laws of the United States. As I testified on June 4, 2009, I do not believe the federal statue regarding littering is unjust, and I do not wish to challenge or change that law, as civil disobedience would suggest. Instead, my actions are better classified as ‘civil initiative.’ When a government fails to respect and protect basic human rights — or, worse, is itself a violator — it is the responsibility of citizens to act in defense of those rights,” Staton wrote.
Staton has a point.
Throughout U.S. history, there have been laws that ran contrary to the common decency or sensibilities of the common person. In each of those cases, laws that were found to support the dehumanization, discrimination and endangerment of people’s lives were eventually overturned when it was realized that the laws served nothing but a self-rightous purpose of a few.
Now, the law not to litter the refuge is a valid law and does need to be enforced but there is a difference between littering and saving lives. With U.S. immigration policy forcing migrants to cross into the most hostile areas of the desert, it is wrong for the government to disavow responsibility for their safety simply because these people are not supposed to be coming here in the first place.
The fact is that they are coming — for a good reason to them that forces them to ignore warnings of the dangers and put their lives at risk.
So far, according to No More Deaths website, 206 migrants have died in the Arizona desert this year while trying to cross illegally. If they had had access to water, they might have made it until a Border Patrol agent passed by.
What Walt Staton does, along with, the other No More Deaths volunteers is something that doesn’t need recognition nor condemnation. It is simply an act of humanity that illustrates that borders make no difference when it comes to looking out for the welfare of others.
At 3:00 p.m. tomorrow, Friday, December 4, Walt Staton will be re-sentenced for his “crime” of providing life-saving water along Arizona’s deadly migrant trails.
It will be this judge who will go down in history as either upholding the law or upholding the first step when it comes to amending laws that are unjust and dangerous to the well-being of a certain group of people.
As the tagline of the No More Deaths website says: