This bottle, left on a trail where migrants or evidence of their presence have been observed bears hopeful and encouraging messages – messages that could create legal jeopardy for the people who placed it.
“Suerte in su camino y jornada!” it says: “Good luck in your path and journey.”
Even more risky: “Alcanzaran su destino,” and “No se rindan!” In English: “You will reach your destination” and “Don’t give up!”
These messages might be interpreted as aiding through encouragement the illegal crossing of the border and traveling on in the US. They might also be used to characterize the motivation of the person or people who placed the bottle as knowingly aiding migrants in their illegal journeys.
Many aid workers who leave jugs of water in the desert south of Tucson, Arizona do so with the knowledge of Border Patrol agents in the area. Some consider themselves friends or close to it with some of those agents, and are wary of the more militant ones. Other workers take a militant stance themselves, and don’t want to make friends. But if you do the work, you’ll meet agents and talk with them. If you’re working on private land with permission of the owners, or on pubic land and following the rules of the agency or government supervising that land, there’s a good chance you can leave water in places migrants are clearly traveling – and regularly dying of dehydration – without being arrested, though enforcement of what laws bear on this humanitarian work seems to allow for a wide range of interpretation by Border Patrol agents.
Without a doubt, though, aid workers cannot help a migrant along his or her journey knowing in these back-desert trails: the risk of felony prosecution is real. But the water, to save lives of folks at risk of death, is generally viewed as help for the distressed rather than aid in an illegal act. Unless you write the wrong words on the water. Samaritans beware; poets, hold your pens.