U.S. Border Patrol agents routinely empty water jugs and destroy or remove supplies left for migrants crossing the border in the southern Arizona desert, according to two humanitarian groups based in Tucson.
Volunteers found 415 instances in which of water containers had been slashed or emptied from March 2012 to December 2015, according to the report published Wednesday by No More Deaths and La Coalicion de Derechos Humanos.
Border patrol agents likely vandalized the water containers in the majority of the instances, given their access to the areas in the Sonoran Desert where volunteers recorded the containers being emptied, according to the report, which includes photos and videos of agents emptying jugs in the desert from as recently as 2017. Animals, hunters, militia groups or other government employees may have also emptied the containers, the report says.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents based in Tucson have been instructed to not remove or destroy drinking water supplies and are reprimanded if they do so, said agent Stephanie Dixon. Agents rescued 3,200 people in need of help across the entire border, she said.
"The border patrol shares a common goal with the non-governmental organizations to preserve human life and to prevent injury,” Dixon said. "We do not condone or encourage the destruction or tampering of any water or food or products that could be left behind."
Several humanitarian groups regularly leave water containers and other supplies for migrants crossing the border in Arizona. Removing water supplies could lead to the dehydration death of some migrants, said Jeff Snider, a volunteer with No More Deaths in Tucson.
"The terrain, the ability to get lost as well as the actions of border patrol have really contributed to a culture of death and disappearance," Snider said.