Scott Daniel Warren, 35, was detained last week on charges of harboring undocumented immigrants after Border Patrol agents conducted surveillance on a building in Ajo where two men who had illegally crossed the border were given food, water, beds and clean clothes.
Warren's attorney Bill Walker asserted that his client, who is an ASU instructor at Arizona State University, currently teaching an online course on Earth's natural responses to environmental change, had done nothing illegal.
"We don't smuggle them, we don't do anything to help them enter the United States," Walker said. "This place that they raided… it's not hidden anywhere… and it's been used for a long time, not to help smuggle migrants, but to give medical care and food and water."
A university spokesperson said in a statement to 12 News that there was no reason to believe the arrest would impact Warren's ability to fulfill his current duty with the university
"Mr. Warren was not acting in his capacity as an ASU employee at the time of the alleged incident," the spokesperson said.
Group volunteer Caitlin Deighan also said she believed the timing of the arrest was suspicious.
"It felt retaliatory in that it occurred less than eight hours after our press conference releasing these findings that implicated Border Patrol," she said.
According to Deighan, group members were worried by an escalation in the criminalization of humanitarian-aid workers, particularly in the west desert part of Arizona, "which sees almost half of the recovered human remains that are found in Arizona."
"There's a true danger there, and it's an extremely important place for us to do work," she said.