Water and other supplies left at the border between Mexico and Arizona for migrants were vandalized regularly by United States border patrol agents during the President Barack Obama administration, humanitarian groups have reported.
With President Donald Trump in power, they expect things to only get worse.
According to volunteers from No More Deaths and La Coalición de Derechos Humanos, two Arizona-based humanitarian organizations, thousands of gallons of water left out for migrants were vandalized 415 times between March 2012 and December 2015.
Overall, 3,586 gallons were damaged, although wildlife and hunters are also to blame for some of the vandalism. The groups found that agents were the main culprits, however.
“Through statistical analysis, video evidence, and personal experience, our team has uncovered a disturbing reality. In the majority of cases, US border patrol agents are responsible for the widespread interference with essential humanitarian efforts,” the report said.
The instances of vandalism also impacted other items left out for migrants, such as blankets and food. Volunteers, the report added, were also harassed by agents.
“The practice of destruction of and interference with aid is not the deviant behavior of a few rogue border patrol agents, it is a systemic feature of enforcement practices in the borderlands,” the report concluded.
With the goal of discouraging migrants from coming, agents often destroy aid left by these humanitarian organizations in the Arizona desert, the report explained.
When asked to comment, an agency spokesman said the agency does not condone vandalism and that agents try to do their jobs as humanely as possible.
According to Caitlin Deighan, the spokesperson for No More Deaths, the border has been increasingly militarized since President Bill Clinton’s era.
“It’s been ongoing throughout every administration since,” she said.
“We do expect this crisis to worsen under the current administration,” Deighan said.
Following Trump’s alleged racist comments regarding immigrants of color, this report is sure to ignite yet another debate revolving around immigration laws in the country and how border patrol agents should be punished for damaging aid left by volunteers.
Still, it will be hard for the public to pressure Congress to do anything about it as lawmakers struggle to pass legislation that would protect immigrants eligible for Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections.