A Crime of Compassion?

How many of us know what we're capable of as human beings who choose to be moral agents at anytime in their personal, professional or political life?


How many of us know we will act and stay strong in spite of the consequences? Obviously, these questions are resigned to speculation at the moment.


Here at the UA, we have a great example of someone who has exemplified moral preservation.


Walt Staton, UA alumnus and former Arizona Daily Wildcat contributor, was convicted this June in Pima County federal court by a 12-person jury on the charge of ""knowingly littering"" on a nearby wildlife refuge while conducting humanitarian work with local human rights group No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes.


""Walt Staton wanted to help people, and his tool was the water jug,"" wrote the Los Angeles Times on Aug. 13.


On Dec. 4, 2008, Walt was cited by the Arizona Fish and Wildlife Service for littering on the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, after Walt and three other No More Deaths desert volunteers drove to put jugs of water on trails where tens of thousands of migrants travel through the treacherous —  and extremely deadly —  desert terrain every year.


The Arizona Daily Star reported Aug. 25that between Oct. 1, 2008, and Aug. 20, the bodies of 185 people, deemed ""suspected illegal border crossers"" by the Star, ""have been been found along Arizona's stretch of border from New Mexico to Yuma County, up from 166 at the same time last year, medical examiners' figures show."" The Star further reports that death tolls reported by the U.S. Border Patrol reveal that border fatalities have incrementally increased each year since 2004.


""What is our responsibility as citizens and as human beings?"" asked anthropology professor Linda Green. ""Perhaps that's a question we have to be asking ourselves.""

Most of us know the answer, as it is a natural, sane instinct to be compassionate and decent toward fellow human beings.


And artificial borders — or metal or concrete ones like that the government is continuing to build along our border — do not exempt governments, especially ours, from serving the needs of all human beings.


Not only is the question of personal, civic and moral responsibility important in this matter, but it becomes no less than a compelling necessity when the government, sharing this responsibility, fails to do its part in securing the health and safety of all peoples to the best of its capabilities and jurisdiction.


Such were the findings of the 2008 report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants. It notes that it is ""with dismay that xenophobia and racism towards migrants in the United States has worsened since 9/11.""


The report concluded that ""the United States lacks a clear, consistent, long-term strategy to improve respect for the human rights of migrants"" and ""has failed to adhere to its international obligations to make the human rights of the 37.5 million migrants living in the country a national priority.""


It's useful here to refer to our most cherished democratic principles upon which our social and political values are founded. The Declaration of Independence reminds us that governments themselves are artificial, created solely for the purpose of securing the ""unalienable rights"" of ""life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."" But, the declaration continues, ""Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.""


The proponents of No More Deaths, and their supporters, intend to institute civil initiative in order to fulfill the functions for which the government was created but has flagrantly failed to do.


The same Los Angeles Times article, mentioned above, reported that 13 additional No More Deaths volunteers were cited last month for leaving jugs in the desert.


The courageous human rights workers, like our own Walt Staton and other activists of No More Deaths, along with the numerous other local border humanitarian groups such as Humane Borders, Border Links, Border Action Network, and Samaritans, are continuing undeterred to ensure that human rights are an attainable reality.


Let us learn from the example of these individuals who preseve human rights despite consequences from authority.


When it comes down to it, our allegiance is to one another and not those in power.



— Gabriel Matthew Schivone is a junior majoring in art, literature and media studies. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.


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