A Measure of Justice

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_In this article about hundreds of empty shelter beds in Las Cruces and El Paso while families seeking safety wait in Mexico, SBCC steering committee member Nia Rucker of the ACLU of New Mexico raises concerns that women_including trans gender women_ waiting in Ciudad Juárez face rape, extorsion, and other incredibly difficult conditions. 

_We joined more than 120 groups on a sign-on letter urging the Administration to move away from ICE’s reliance on hotels and invest instead in the creation of NGO-run post-release Border Reception and Welcome Centers. 

_We are hopeful that the Administration will follow through on lifting Title 42, a public health policy that is being wrongly (ab)used to quickly and without due process expel people seeking safety at our southern border, by July 31.

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_A Measure of Justice. We were encouraged by the introduction of the S. 2103 The Accountability for Federal Law Enforcement Act by U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), which offers the possibility of justice for people who have experienced civil and constitutional rights violations at the hands of federal law enforcement officers and agencies. Currently, people do not have the same statutory right to bring suit against a federal officer as they do to bring suit with state and local officers. Statutes only allow people to enforce their constitutional and civil rights against local or state officers. (See 42 U.S.C. 1983.) Although the courts have granted people a limited implied right to sue federal officers, it is not enough – without a statutory right, individuals have little to no remedies to enforce their rights in a civil court. A good example of why the law is needed is the 2020 Supreme Court decision on the case of Hernandez v. Mesa. The case involved a cross-border shooting by an agent who killed Sergio Adrián Hernández Güereca (¡presente!), a teenage boy who was playing on the Mexican side of the canal that separates El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, México. The family tried to bring a claim under an implied right of action, but the court found that the implied right under the Bivens line of cases does not extend to a cross-border shooting, so the family was left without a remedy. Notably, the Supreme Court in that case left it to Congress to create a statutory right, hence the importance of Senator Padilla’s bill. Having a private right of action in statute may also help Janine Bouey, a former Los Angeles Police Department officer and U.S. veteran,  who recently filed a complaint against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for inhumane treatment at the border. Unfortunately, CBP agents regularly abuse their power and inflict harm, especially on people of color and increasingly on black community members. You don’t have to look far for yet another example of why we need a federal right of action: a judge recently threw out claims against officials who used violence to clear Lafayette Park for Trump's photo op last year. Among the claims were Bivens claims, asking the court to imply a right of action for constitutional violations. The court declined because the claims did not fit into the very narrow box of Bivens. Justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere. —Martin Luther King, Jr.

_Still closed. DHS’s announcement that the southern border would remain closed to non-essential travel until July 21 was a blow to many border region businesses, especially those on the U.S. side of the border that rely on shoppers and visitors coming from Mexico. This policy is severely affecting our local economies. See how it is affecting San Diego, Calif., Nogales, Arizona, and El Paso, Texas (along with Southern New Mexico), and  Laredo, and the Lower Rio Grande Valley, in Texas. This is particularly annoying given that U.S. citizens continue to travel back and forth to Mexico without any restrictions and Mexican nationals can still fly into the United States. To help border communities build back better and thrive, the Administration needs to open borders now. 

_Good riddance. In what felt like hopeful news, we learned that U.S. Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott was ousted by the Biden Administration.  Of grave concern to us was Scott’s unabashed support for Trump’s lethal vanity border wall and his participation in a cover-up of the excessive use-of-force death of Anastasio Hernández Rojas (¡presente!). But there were other things too, like his refusal to drop the offensive term “illegal alien,” as requested by his new boss, President Biden. And the horrible videos he created that characterized people fleeing violence and seeking safety as criminals. Even interactions he had with SBCC steering committee member Pedro Rios of American Friends Service Committee, put in question his leadership skills. So, from our part, here’s a big buh-bye. We hope this is a sign that the Administration is ready to get serious about bringing accountability and doing away with the Border Patrol’s deeply entrenched culture of xenophobia and violence. Veremos.


border_lines is published every Friday for your reading pleasure. If you’d like to submit an item for inclusion, please email Vicki B. Gaubeca at [email protected], by Wednesday COB. The Southern Border Communities Coalition is a program of Alliance San Diego.


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