The case of Iowa City-native Shanti Sellz will be higher profile once her trial begins for felony transportation of illegal aliens. Some background from the Durango Herald:
It lasted only a few minutes. Enough time for a U.S. Border Patrol agent to pull over the beat-up hatchback, determine that the three men in back were illegal immigrants, and take the two young volunteers in front into custody. But that event on an isolated stretch of Arizona highway last summer has made those two activists icons in a national immigration debate.
"We were just doing what we thought was right - working within the law to make a difference," said Daniel Strauss, one of the activists.
Both Strauss and Durangoan Shanti Sellz were arrested by the Border Patrol last July for transporting three illegal immigrants in their car. The two volunteers claim they were taking their sick passengers to see a doctor at a church as part of a humanitarian effort known as No More Deaths, which provides water and medical aid to immigrants crossing the scorching Arizona desert...
Court documents show Strauss and Sellz passed two Border Patrol agents before being pulled over by a third, suggesting that prosecutors may contend that if the immigrants they were carrying really needed help, it was quickly at hand.
The Press-Citizen has been following the story, mostly because Sellz's parents live in Iowa City, and offers this ridiculously one-sided editorial today:
It certainly is possible -- maybe even probable -- that the people Sellz found were in need of medical attention. Many undocumented Mexican migrants simply have no idea how vast a desert they need to cross. The borderlands between the U.S. and Mexico are scattered with the bodies of migrants ill-prepared for their journey. Knowing that people have died in the past and will die in the future without some form of intervention, groups such as No More Deaths serve a necessary societal function. Even if the migrants are unaccounted for after receiving medical care, at least they are alive rather than left to roast in the desert.No, it's not.
U.S. border policy is, of course, complicated.
From Mother Jones:
The Border Patrol, naturally, sees things rather differently. At a pre-trial hearing, the chief of the service’s Tucson sector, Michael Nicley, explained that he had introduced an explicit change of policy several months before the arrests requiring church groups and other humanitarian volunteers to inform the Border Patrol any time they wanted to lend assistance to sick migrants. This, he said, was something Sellz and Strauss did not do, and as far as he was concerned they deserved “no special dispensation.”
The U.S. magistrate presiding over the pre-trial proceedings, Judge Bernard P. Velasco, indicated strongly that his sympathies were on the government’s side. It was one thing to offer medical assistance in the desert, he said in a ruling denying a motion to dismiss the charges ahead of trial, but quite another to drive people into a big city. “The issue… is whether the illegal aliens treated at Southside Presbyterian Church and thereafter allowed to melt into Tucson, Arizona, have been assisted ‘in furtherance’ of their illegal entry,” he said. “The answer is yes.”