CBP: Human Rights? What’s that?

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_SBCC steering committee member Pedro Rios of the American Friends Service Committee decried the dangers and harms to migrants created by the Biden administration when it restarted the cruel and euphemistically named Migrant Protections Protocols (aka, Remain in Mexico), a Trump-era program that requires migrants to wait in Mexico while their claims for protection are processed.

_Please consider joining this NGO sign-on letter calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to initiate a formal Title VI civil rights investigation against Texas state agencies for continued implementation of “Operation Lone Star”--an unlawful state immigration enforcement that targets migrants for arrest, jailing and criminal prosecution for the state misdemeanor offense of criminal trespass based on their perceived race, national origin, and immigration status; read letter here and sign onto form here by no later than Tuesday, Dec 14, COB.

_Will we get accountability, oversight and transparency of the largest law enforcement agency in the nation under the newly confirmed CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus? Veremos (linked story quotes former border agent and our relentless SBCC ambassador, Jenn Budd).

_If you want to see the horrific damage that border wall construction has inflicted upon Arizona and New Mexico, and why Congress needs to appropriate funds for wall mitigation and removal, check out this storymap.

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_CBP: Human Rights? What’s that? So today on Human Rights Day, December 10, we want to talk about human rights, which are just basic rights -- and they’ve been ignored and violated at our borderlands for far too long.

Let’s start by quoting a statement issued by CBP dated Aug. 2, 2021 announcing the death of a man in custody that says that Border Patrol agents “restrained him with his hands behind his back and placed him on the hood of a nearby Border Patrol vehicle. [Agents] placed two other migrants on the front bumper area of the vehicle and two in the rear of the vehicle and drove back to the location where the first group was apprehended to await a transport vehicle.” Upon the return of agents, an hour later, the person restrained to the hood of the Border Patrol vehicle was unresponsive and shortly thereafter pronounced dead. Say what? Attaching human beings to hoods and bumpers and then driving off is an unfathomable disregard for basic dignity and human rights.

Which brings us to the recently released publication by CBP, Report on Internal Investigations and Employee Accountability: Fiscal Year 2020, which describes disciplinary actions _or lack thereof_taken against agents for misconduct. The report documents how agents and officers are rarely removed or terminated for their misconduct. (Linked story quotes SBCC steering committee member Andrea Guerrero of Alliance San Diego and Yours Truly). As Andrea underscores, “CBP prides itself on integrity, but there can be no integrity if the agency is not willing to address systemic impunity, beginning with their allowance of Border Patrol to investigate its own agents in use-of-force incidents. That is, at a minimum, a conflict of interest, and more often, obstruction of justice.” Bam!

Concerningly, the CBP report boasts about a 14% decrease in employee arrests, from 232 in FY19 to 201 in FY20. But not so fast on the back patting. The number of employee arrests for FY21 according to their live tracking website is 253_an almost 21% jump (the highest number of arrests_since they started tracking was 287 in FY18 ). We'll be keeping an eye on next fiscal year's report. Even though this report comes after revelations of Border Patrol cover-up units (often known as Border Patrol Critical Incident Teams), CBP fails to address them in this report. Nor does CBP address the damning allegations made in the Anastasio Hernandez Rojas case, during which border agents tampered, withheld and destroyed evidence in its investigation to protect themselves. These are not anecdotes, they are a pattern and CBP is complicit in covering this up. And speaking of human rights, the case of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas is the first-ever extrajudicial killing case against the United States to go before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The Biden administration failed to respond to the allegations by the October deadline, leaving the Commission to accept as true the systemic abuse and impunity of CBP. This case is headed to a hearing before the IACHR in 2022. Congress must act too, starting with a full investigation into the systemic impunity of this agency. Let’s do this. 

_All in the Family. Just this morning, DHS published a request for public input on how to permanently protect against the prior administration’s practice of intentionally separating families at the border in a cruel and deeply misguided attempt to deter others from migrating to the United States. Here’s a suggestion: (1) create policies and practices that keep families together in the first place, including adult children, (2) work with Congress to get that codified into law, (3) don’t jail migrants and migrant families (which is why so many family members are separated), and (4) create a humane, orderly and dignified system for processing their claims for protection (again, without jailing them). ¡Sí se puede!

_Border edumacation. We urge you to check out The Border Chronicle, written by Todd Miller and Melissa del Bosque_two of the best writers on the borderlands_ and we can guarantee you will learn a few things or two about what “borders” are really about. Check out, for example, this excellent interview of writer and scholar Harsha Walia who rips apart the misconception of  “border security” (swooning!). Or this interview of one of our most favorite border and immigration advocates and activists, Isabel Garcia. Kudos to Todd and Melissa for this fantastic journalistic initiative.  Get yourself educated: the borderlands can be_and_is a beautiful place. Let’s #RevitalizeNotMilitarize

_Bravo: Ending on a Good Note!!! We’re elated to report that thanks to the advocacy of our colleagues at Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP), Ricky Garza and Roberto Lopez and the perseverance and bravery of the Cavazos family, a federal judge in McAllen, Texas ordered the Cavazos family property, condemned by the Trump administration for border wall construction over a year ago, returned to the family immediately, after the Biden administration had spent the year pushing the condemnation forward, including by taking physical possession of the land. The order ends a fight that began for the Cavazos family over three years ago in 2018. After years of being told the construction of a border wall was inevitable for her property, TCRP client Eloisa Cavazos and her family will receive full revestment, or return of title to her land. Her experience is positive proof that the scare tactics pushed by DHS and Texas Gov. Abbott are simply a pretext to stoke racist, xenophobic fears about the borderlands. The Cavazos family enjoy a quiet and fulfilling life beside the Rio Grande: hosting barbecues and tending to livestock, including cows, goats, and chickens. Ms. Cavazos has also welcomed dozens of local families onto her property as tenants who lease lots with riverside cabins and spend their weekends relaxing on the peaceful Rio Grande/Rio Bravo. Ms. Cavazos can now enjoy her land without the spectre of contending with needless and wasteful border wall construction running through her property. And we can’t be more thrilled. Bravo for #RioBravo.


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.


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