An Arizona man, Walt Staton, was caught leaving bottles of water in the desert for illegal immigrants and was sentenced to one year of probation and 300 hours community service.
Staton, an advocate and member of the group No More Deaths, was busted in December when he left containers full of water in an area that stretches 18,000 acres where illegal immigrants are known to trek, the Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge.
In a written statement, No More Deaths confirmed Staton has been sentenced to 300 hours of picking up trash from public property and a year of community service. In addition to the sentencing, he is also prohibited form the refuge, according to CNN.
In the court case, both sides used the controversial issue of illegal immigration to support their arguments. Staton’s lawyer insisted his client’s actions were solely humanitarian, while the government said the opposite.
Prosecutors said Staton’s “actions are not about humanitarian efforts, but about protesting the immigration policies of the United States, and aiding those that enter illegally into the United States.”
Noting the phrase scrawled on many of the plastic water jugs — “buena suerte,” or “good luck” in Spanish — the prosecutors said, “The obvious conclusion is that the defendant and No More Deaths wish to aid illegal aliens in their entry attempt.”
The jury convicted Staton of littering, as U.S. FIsh and Wildlife Service said leaving the jugs of water are health risks to the animals that live in the refuge.
Mike Hawkes of the Buenos AIres National WIldlife Refuge said he supports the idea of leaving water for the immigrants, however, “there’s ways to do it without leaving plastic jugs out there.”
He said the plastic jugs were strewn throughout the refuge, which is home to hundreds of bird, reptile and mammal species, according to its Web site.
“We have sympathy for what they have to do,” he said. But “they have do to do it without putting plastic bottles out there. … You can’t go anywhere in the refuge without seeing plastic bottles through the countryside.”
Since Staton’s conviction, 13 additional members of No More Deaths were charges with littering.
Hawkes said last year’s number was about 54,000, down from hundreds of thousands years earlier — the last water-related death there was in June 2008, he said.