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Environmental Law

Littering Conviction Overturned for Man Who Supplied Water to Border Crossers

Posted Sep 3, 2010 12:50 PM CDT
By Mark Hansen

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An Arizona man convicted of littering for leaving water in the desert for border-crossing illegal immigrants committed no crime, a federal appeals court has ruled.

Daniel Millis, a member of the faith-based group No More Deaths, which provides humanitarian aid to illegal immigrants, was convicted of littering in a bench trial before a federal magistrate in Tucson two years ago. He'd been accused of placing 22 one-gallon jugs filled with water around the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in southern Arizona.

The anti-littering law prohibits the dumping of garbage in an area designated as a refuge for endangered species.

But the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a ruling (PDF) Thursday, said the word garbage as it appears in the federal statute is "sufficiently ambiguous" as to be resolved in the defendant's favor, the Associated Press reported.

Millis, 31, told the AP he was "happy" the court has found that humanitarian aid is not a crime but "saddened" by the fact that immigrants continue to die trying to cross the border.

He said he would feel better when the U.S. has a border policy in place that respects human rights.

Refuge officials could not be reached for comment. But officials have previously said it's imperative that they enforce the anti-littering law because trash is a big problem there.

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