__Pedro Rios, the director of the American Friends Service Committee U.S./Mexico Border Program, and SBCC steering committee member, submitted this OpEd to the San Diego Union Tribune to shed light on Border Patrol “Critical Incident Teams” (BPCITs) aka the shadow cover-up units within Border Patrol.
_We wanted to flag this update from WOLA with an analysis of recent migration data and a dive into Border Patrol’s cover-up shadow units, and more.
_Check out Missing in Brooks County, a documentary that follows families searching for their loved ones who have gone missing while crossing the border region in South Texas and profiles the work of border region humanitarian aid workers working to prevent more migrant deaths and assist families, like Eddie Canales with the South Texas Human Rights Center.
_We stand in solidarity with the National Butterfly Center which announced an indefinite closure after being targeted by dangerous right-wing groups threatening the Center’s staff as well as illegal trespassing by law enforcement officers and armed individuals.
_Admission of Guilt. For the people of the southern border region, it is no secret that Border Patrol agents have gotten away with abuse time and time again. Decades of calling out the cover-ups and abuse by Border Patrol have only fallen on deaf ears. The Southern Border Communities Coalition has gathered statements from former members of BPCITs, police investigative records, public disclosures, court records, and more that point to what may be the largest and longest-standing shadow police unit operating in the federal government today. In 2021, we sent a letter to Congress to sound the alarm on these secret Border Patrol cover-up units, and last month, Congress asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to launch an investigation. On February 2nd 2022, The Hill reported that DHSintends to “regulate” these “Critical Incident Teams”, aka cover-up shadow units. If this is indeed the case, this is an admission that these units were and are unregulated, unauthorized, and unchecked. It’s troubling that DHS is looking to “regulate” or “standardize” the responsibilities of these cover-up teams, when these units do not have the authority to exist in the first place. There can be no reforming these corrupt units that do not have legal authority to operate. Border Patrol cover-up units must be abolished.
_Black Mirror anyone? The Department of Homeland Security announced the intention to deploy robot “dogs” to the southern border region as “force multipliers” for CBP and Border Patrol agents. They even tried make light of the situation, saying “Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is offering U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) a helping hand (or ‘paw’)”. We love dogs, but there’s nothing cute about this. By the way, the corporation behind this technology is called Ghost Robotics, the same company that “debuted a robodog with an attached sniper rifle.” The southern border region has long been used as a proving ground for military and police weapons and equipment. We’ve seen it before_once it’s tried out in the southern border region, then it gets picked up by agencies everywhere. This is just another reason why it’s crucial to pay attention to the voices of southern border communities, because so many more people will be affected by the policies and practices that result from border militarization. Our southern border region is NOT your proving grounds. We are not your dog food.
_No honor and No morale. What happens when you think nobody is listening? A recently leaked video of a verbal confrontation between a Border Patrol agent and DHS Secretary Mayorkas in Texas, as reported on CNN, reminds us that what lies beneath the surface of a pre-packaged press-friendly show of support and solidarity from a public official, belies what’s actually happening behind the scenes. The confrontational exchange between agents and their boss was loaded with anger and frustration_and provides a troubling insight into agency culture. Nothing else to see or say here, except sometimes the quiet part gets said out loud when we think the lights and cameras are off!
_It’s so right to end these flights. The Haitian Bridge Alliance is calling on the Biden administration to end deportation flights of Haitian asylum seekers and refugees, especially in the midst of a global pandemic. Over the past several months, more than 15,000 Haitian families, including children, were deported from the U.S. to Haiti under Title 42. This is an outrageous occurrence during unprecedented times. More than 9% of Haitian refugees in ICE detention facilities have tested positive for the COVID_19 virus while the vaccination rate in Haiti remains less than 1%. Let’s do the math_with every expulsion flight that lands in Haiti, we are prolonging and intensifying the devastating impact of this humanitarian crisis in Haiti. We are literally sending vulnerable people back to an even more vulnerable place. We can do better than that. We call on the Biden administration to halt these expulsions and work toward a more humane outcome that preserves human life and dignity. The promise of this country is not being kept when we send the tired, the sick and the oppressed back to the same traumatic, violent and repressive situation they are escaping. We need political courage and a humane holistic approach to policy that helps rather than hurts people. The Biden administration must end Title 42 and these expulsion flights.
border_lines is published every other 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.