Scott Daniel Warren, 35, with the group No More Deaths, faces a federal charge of harboring two people in the country illegally. His arrest last week came after Border Patrol agents conducted surveillance on a building where two immigrants were given food, water, beds and clean clothes, according to federal court records.
Group volunteer Caitlin Deighan stopped short of calling the arrest retaliation but said it looks suspicious to have charged Warren so close to the release of the videos.
"We see it as an escalation and criminalization of aid workers," Deighan said Monday.
"I think the timing of it is certainly significant," Jeffrey Reinhardt, volunteer with No More Deaths said. "I don't know the border patrol's motives."
"When you talk to border patrol they have a public relations campaign saying they are working hard to mitigate deaths and suffering," said Reinhardt. "Their policies don't reflect that."
The Border Patrol didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment. A phone message left for William Walker, an attorney for Warren, wasn't immediately returned.
Last week a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson told ABC15 they do not condone agents destroying water sources. We reached out to USCBP regarding the Warren case, they referred us to the U.S. Attorney. Spokesperson Cosme Lopez said they could not comment on the ongoing investigation, except for what is in the criminal complaint.
No More Deaths last week gave news organizations videos taken between 2010 and 2017, mostly by cameras at its desert camp. In one clip, a Border Patrol agent kicked over five water jugs meant to supply immigrants. In another, an agent pours gallons of water on the ground.
In 2005, two group volunteers were arrested after they drove three immigrants from a desert location to a Tucson church to get medical attention from a doctor and nurse. The indictment was eventually dismissed by a federal judge.
No More Deaths is a coalition of religious organizations, human rights advocates and individuals who provide food, water and medical assistance to immigrants crossing the Arizona desert from Mexico.
Immigrants who sneak into the United States through that terrain face many dangers, including walking for several days in the scorching heat.
Thousands have died crossing the border since the mid-1990s, when heightened enforcement in San Diego and El Paso, Texas, pushed traffic into Arizona's deserts. In recent years, south Texas has become the busiest corridor for illegal crossings and also the most deadly.