_SBCC steering committee member Dulce Garcia of Border Angels joins immigrant and human rights advocates in urging the Biden administration to end Title 42 as an excuse to expel people quickly without due process.
_In this poignantly written OpEd, SBCC steering committee member Pedro Rios of American Friends Service Committee describes the lethal consequences of Border Patrol’s “prevention through deterrence tactics,” which have proven to be deadly by design.
_Our colleague Ricky Garza of the Texas Civil Rights Project is cautiously optimistic that the Biden administration will fully restore ownership of the Salineño Birding Preserve to the Valley Land Fund to save wildlife in the preserve from harms caused by a border wall.
_Our colleagues on the ground in the Lower Rio Grande Valley alerted us to the fact that someone had placed some obviously fake “No Trespassing” signs near the National Butterfly Center; we know the signs were fake because they touted ‘Customs and Border Patrol’ instead of ‘CBP’; we all learned later that the signs were placed (and later removed) by a private company involved in border wall construction as a likely effort to obscure public scrutiny of their harmful endeavors..
_As part of the Defund Hate campaign, we signaled our gratitude that the Fiscal Year 2022 budget continuing resolution passed by Congress and signed into law by Biden yesterday did not contain additional funding for CBP and ICE beyond Fiscal Year 2021 levels; we have more work ahead of us to cut the bloated funding these agencies already receive.
_Bad optics. Bad optics and disastrous actions abound in the last two weeks as the world witnessed the Biden administration’s horrendous response to thousands of refugees, mostly Haitians, who appeared on the banks of the Rio Grande near Del Rio, Texas. Horrified by the administration’s tactics, we wrote a letter to President Biden to express our alarm. Biden has lost sight of this nation’s humanitarian values. We wish we could be blind to the images of U.S. Border Patrol agents mounted on horseback threatening and rounding up refugees, which evoked the racist roots of U.S. law enforcement and the lynching of Mexican and Black people. These images painfully Illustrated the long legacy of anti-Black and anti-Brown immigration policies and patterns of violence, abuse and impunity of the U.S. Border Patrol. Incredibly, and shortly after Biden vowed to get things “under control,” we saw a rapid “clean-up” tactic that aimed to wipe the issue_literally_out of sight and out of the media’s mind. We quickly sent a delegation to bear witness to the truth on the ground and to learn how we could support our Haitian brothers and sisters. What we witnessed was an overwhelming saturation of law enforcement officials everywhere_i.e., Border Patrol agents, local police, state troopers, National Guard, and other law enforcement officials; all intent on implementing a plan that ultimately deported thousands of Haitians back to a country in crisis and placed thousands in immigration detention. Thousands also fled back to Mexico, fearing deportation by the United States only to be deported back to Haiti by Mexican authorities. Three days into our visit, and by the time the SBCC+ delegation arrived for a DHS tour of the government’s operational response to migrants near the Del Rio - Ciudad Acuña International Bridge, the camp had been completely cleared out and bulldozers were leveling out the remaining debris. Our delegation held a press briefing to call for the Biden administration to: (1) communicate the whereabouts and wellbeing of the Haitians moved out of view, (2) stop deportations and extend protections to Haitians consistent with our moral and legal obligations, and (3) conduct an independent and impartial investigation of border agents who appear to have violated the civil and human rights of Haitian migrants as part of a long pattern of abuse and impunity at the border (this last request was made by SBCC co-chair Lilian Serrano of Universidad Popular in San Diego). We didn’t have to see this happen. As Yours Truly notes, “we have the resources and tools to instead of using a punitive, often lethal, law enforcement-only approach, we can instead..._with the same resources (emphasis added)_adopt a humanitarian, efficient and orderly process to welcome refugees at our border.” What we definitely need is a #NewBorderVision, one that guarantees public safety for all, ensures human rights are protected, and treats people who cross the border seeking safety with dignity. ¡See se puede! (pun intended)
_Border Patrol impunity. Gotta admit that even though Biden said that Border Patrol agents on horseback who corralled migrants in Del Rio were “going to pay,” history has shown us that abusive border agents are rarely, if ever, held accountable. The problems with Border Patrol’s use of force go far beyond this one specific incident. What we saw in Del Rio is a product of three decades of increasing militarization of the border. Border Patrol is a self-described paramilitary organization that frequently employs violence against poor and persecuted people seeking refuge in the United States. As SBCC steering committee member Andrea Guerrero of Alliance San Diego notes, “Unfortunately, the accountability system at Customs and Border Protection, which is the mother agency for Border Patrol, [is] broken, which leads to impunity." We weren’t consoled either by the administration’s announcement of the formation of the Law Enforcement Coordination Council (LECC) that, in theory, will comprehensively assess a broad range of law enforcement matters, including its law enforcement policies and training_presumably to implement best police practices. The LECC notably excludes the participation of civil rights experts, Black-led organizations, immigrant rights groups and other directly impacted communities. Seriously, we need to take a pause, step back and ask ourselves if what we have been doing for the past three decades has been working. Harsh prevention through deterrence tactics, over-policing of border communities and the hyper-militarization of our borders_under any administration_has clearly had disastrous and dangerous consequences for border communities and migrants alike. For a sundry of reasons, including climate change, economic instability caused by a global pandemic, and corruption and violence will continue to drive people to our borders to seek a better life. This is why we somewhat agree with The Washington Post’s editorial which notes that "Border Patrol, as currently constituted, is the wrong blunt instrument for the challenge of the southern border." Hey, we’ll say it again: we need a #NewBorderVision.
_Saving Asylum. Under the former administration, we saw the weaponization of a public health law (aka, Title 42) to immediately expel refugees arriving at our borders, ignoring their due process rights to seek immigration relief_including asylum_at our southern border. Unfortunately, the Biden administration persists in using this tactic, including by immediately deporting thousands of refugees that sought safety in Del Rio. Our colleagues at the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) organized a binational march to "Restore Protections for Holy Families,” on Sept. 25. SBCC co-chair Alba Jaramillo of Arizona Justice for Our Neighbors participated in the event and urged the Biden administration to stop misusing this law. This tactic, most likely inspired by the fear mongering of anti-immigrants, doesn’t illustrate the strength of our nation. In fact, it makes us look weak and cruel as it adds suffering to a population that could ultimately fortify our culture and economy. To illustrate how we contribute to the suffering of people who are only seeking safety, KBI took a video of the moment CBP closed the gate at the port of entry in front of refugee family. Really, America? Aren’t we better than this? Today, October 1, on the eve of the CDC's reconsideration of Title 42, we urge you to join KBI’s National Call-in day and ask your congressional representatives and senators to restore access to asylum. Go to this link for more information. ¡Adelante!
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.