Washington, Aug 14 (IANS): An Arizona man caught leaving water bottles in the desert for illegal immigrants has been sentenced to 300 hours of community service and a year of probation, an aid group said.
Walt Staton, a member of the group No More Deaths, left full water bottles in December in Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge for the illegal immigrants who routinely pass through the 18,000-acre refuge, according to court documents.
A judge sentenced him Tuesday to 300 hours of picking up trash on public property and a year of probation, No More Deaths said in a written statement. He is also banned from the refuge during that time, the group said.
Although the case involved only a misdemeanour charge, both sides used the divisive issue of illegal immigration in their arguments; Staton's lawyer argued that Staton's actions were humanitarian, but the government said otherwise, CNN reported.
In a sentencing memo, the federal prosecutors wrote that Staton's "actions are not about humanitarian efforts, but about protesting the immigration policies of the United States, and aiding those that enter illegally into the United States."
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."
Prosecutors had requested a $5,000 fine, along with five years of probation, according to court documents after Staton initially refused to pay a $175 fine for littering, according to Staton's lawyer, Bill Walker.
Mike Hawkes of the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge said Thursday that although he had no issue with groups leaving water out for illegal immigrants, "there's ways to do it without leaving plastic jugs out there."
He said the plastic jugs were strewn throughout the refuge, which is home to hundreds of bird, reptile and mammal species.