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Your Tax Dollars At Work

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Federal prosecutors in Arizona have struck against a new menace that threatens the safety of the community. They brought charges against Walt Stanton, a divinity student at Claremont School of Theology in California. The crime? Stanton left bottles filled with drinking water in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, an 18,000-acre area that straddles the border with Mexico, smack in the middle of one of the most heavily traveled routes for illegal immigrants from Mexico. Stanton belongs to a group called “No More Deaths,” which works to combat the large number of deaths suffered by those crossing illegally—frequently involving heat prostration and dehydration. Stanton states that he was appalled by the number of people dying in transit through the area and wanted to do something to save lives. CNN reports that prosecutors saw it differently:

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.”

That’s certainly true. They don’t want them to die. And that constitutes aid. But the argument that not wanting illegal immigrants to die in transit is wrongful is certainly a novel construction of federal law.

So here’s a law exam question: assume on one hand that Stanton and his like leave water behind to avoid the unnecessary death of those crossing the border without proper provisions, and on the other hand, federal prosecutors use all the resources in their control to interdict them, with the clear understanding that their actions make the death of immigrants by dehydration or heat stroke more likely. Whose thinking constitutes scienter associated with a crime?

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