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Report: Border Patrol Agents Vandalize Water Left in Desert for Migrants

A video still from January 2017 shows a Border Patrol agent removing a blanket left for migrants. (No More Deaths)
A video still from January 2017 shows a Border Patrol agent removing a blanket left for migrants. (No More Deaths)
January 17, 2018

TUCSON, Ariz. – Border Patrol agents have been caught on video dumping out water and confiscating blankets left in the desert by aid workers, according to a report just out from the humanitarian group No More Deaths.

The group put out almost 32,000 gallons of water from 2012 through 2015 and found that 3,000 gallons were vandalized.

Trail cameras caught multiple cases of Border Patrol agents in the act of dumping water and removing blankets – two as recently as 2017.

Kate Morgan, abuse documentation and advocacy coordinator with No More Deaths, maintains these acts can make a treacherous journey turn lethal.

"Oftentimes, we find that our water drops are vandalized in some of the most lethal portions of the desert,” she states. “The act of destroying those aid supplies, we believe, constitutes a deadly act against people who are crossing the border."

Morgan says the Pima County Medical Examiner's office took in the bodies of 539 border crossers during the study period.

The Border Patrol said it will look into the report but did not respond to further inquiries as of the deadline for this story.

In the past, the agency has said it would leave the water alone but would not say if agents have been disciplined, citing privacy concerns.

In 1994, the Border Patrol adopted a tactic called "prevention through deterrence," which posits that making the journey more difficult will convince people not to risk it – the same reasoning behind lengthening the border wall, which leads migrants to cross in more rugged terrain.

It's an argument Morgan rejects.

"People have very, very compelling reasons for leaving their home and making such a deadly crossing,” she states. “It really has very little to do with our presence in the desert."

he study shows that 86 percent of the water put out in the desert is used by migrants, while a small portion of it was destroyed by hunters, people using the desert for recreation and militias.

The report, called Interference with Humanitarian Aid, Death and Disappearance on the U.S. Mexico Border, is available at

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ