The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday to keep paying $25,000 annually for a nonprofit group’s effort to use water stations to prevent illegal border crossers from dying in the desert.
Republican Ann Day became the first supervisor to oppose the annual payment since the board first approved it in 2001. Day said she’s now is questioning whether payments to Humane Borders put the county in conflict with U.S. immigration policy and could encourage illegal immigration.
“I feel there is a lot of ambiguity and unanswered questions,” Day told the board. After the vote, she said board members know the stations save some lives, but “do we not know that it increases the dangerous conditions because smugglers say: ‘Don’t worry. . . Go ahead and walk here. You’ll be OK’?”
Supervisor Richard Elias said he didn’t see any ambiguity.
“It is a matter of right and wrong,” Elias said. “It’s a question of whether we follow our moral and religious beliefs, to find and help people who are suffering and to keep them from dying. . .
“There are a lot of questions about a failed federal policy on immigration that brings people into this country,” Elias said.
Day agreed, but she said other moral issues come into play, led by the question of whether the water stations aid illegal activity. Other critics of Humane Borders have said that a rising number of desert deaths each year shows the water tanks aren’t helping.
The county money will help Humane Borders pay for a fourth vehicle to haul water to the desert tanks, said Robin Hoover, the group’s president.
John Yoakum, a member of First Christian Church in Tucson, where Hoover is pastor, said: “Federal policy is in conflict with federal policy. Federal agencies approve in writing where to put the water stations. But we wouldn’t be putting the stations out if it wasn’t for federal policy causing the deaths.”