US judge in Tucson overturns convictions of 4 border aid volunteers

The Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force bombing range have threatened to sue, fine or ban visitors for leaving behind humanitarian aid.

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The Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force bombing range have threatened to sue, fine or ban visitors for leaving behind humanitarian aid.

PHOENIX – A federal judge in Tucson overturned the convictions of four humanitarian aid volunteers found guilty last year of leaving food and water for migrants trekking through protected Arizona wilderness, saying their work was part of their “sincere religious beliefs.”

In January 2018, U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernardo Velasco found Natalie Hoffman, a volunteer with humanitarian aid group No More Deaths, guilty on all three charges she faced. He also found three other volunteers – Oona Holcomb, Madeline Huse and Zaachila Orozco-McCormick – guilty of the two charges each.

Their convictions came from citations they received on Aug. 13, 2017, for entering Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge without a permit, and leaving behind 1-gallon water jugs and cans of beans at drop stations in the refuge that No More Deaths has used for years.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Rosemary Márquez issued a 22-page decision reversing Velasco’s guilty verdicts for all four volunteers, after the four appealed their convictions.

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