Indefensible and outright sinister

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NOTE: We urge all senators to VOTE NO on any anti-immigrant and anti-border community amendments (i.e., further border militarization, blocking access to asylum, etc.) during the upcoming vote-a-rama for the Inflation Reduction Act.

_Earlier this week, the Supreme Court certified that the Biden administration can indeed do away with the harmful Trump-era Remain in Mexico program that has put thousands of asylum seekers at risk of violence and violated their right to seek asylum (and fyi – nixing both Remain in Mexico and Title 42 would just move us back to what we were doing prior to the former administration) – we need the Biden administration to take action!

_Whether it’s former DHS officials making big bucks hawking border tech, or civil rights-violating surveillance and data collection at the border, we’re worried that Big Brother might rule future border management tactics, as suggested by the latest Border Chronicles. Take heed. 

_Texas Governor Abbott’s Operation Lone Star has raised several legal challenges, while adding yet another layer of unaccountable border militarization, which is why we support our colleagues led by Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR) and joined by Frontera Texas, ARISE Adelante, Proyecto Libertad, Movimiento del Valle por los Derechos Humanos, Border Workers United (BWU), La Unión del Pueblo Unido (LUPE), and Statewide Leadership Council, who will be taking to the streets in towns along the Texas-Mexico border Saturday in protest — if you’re in Texas border communities, please consider joining. 

_Food for thought: Do nations really need borders? 

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_Indefensible and outright sinister. Until the Biden administration gains the courage necessary to hold Customs and Border Protection (CBP) accountable, out-of-control agents and officers will continue to engage in indefensible and outright sinister behaviors. Take for example, this unbelievably shocking report that Border Patrol agents in Yuma, Arizona, are taking away and trashing sacred Sikh turbans.  What? Really??? According to a letter written by our colleagues at the ACLU of Arizona to CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus — that demanded an investigation and immediate halt to these practices — these confiscations violate federal laws that protect religious freedom, “. . . The turban reminds a Sikh of their duty to maintain and uphold the core beliefs of the Sikh faith.” These practices also violate CBP’s own national policy that states that agents “should remain cognizant of an individual’s religious beliefs while accomplishing an enforcement action in a dignified and respectful manner.” While CBP Commissioner Magnus stated these actions would be investigated, we couldn’t help but wonder if this investigation would not be as shamefully flawed as the Del Rio investigation that was one-sided and failed to interview a single migrant witness or survivor of Border Patrol’s horse patrol units. We hope for the best. Religious and other sacred belongings aren’t the only items taken and destroyed by Border Patrol. As noted in this letter led by Rep. Raúl Grijalva and endorsed by 22 members of Congress, individuals apprehended by Border Patrol have reported that agents have seized and destroyed their personal belongings — including important personal documents that are critical to their ability to contact loved ones and complete their asylum claims.  (again, this is against CBP national policy). 

And while we’re talking about CBP practices that are indefensible, see this story where a judge refused to dismiss a case where a nine-year-old U.S. citizen and her brother were held for a whopping 30+ hours because CBP officers erroneously assumed their passports were false at the San Ysidro, California port of entry in 2019. Here’s hoping for justice.

Raising the sinister “ick” factor to another level is this story of CBP officers falsifying answers on an asylum seeking form of a two-year-old Salvadoran boy! Are you for realz? Seriously, with these examples, it is clear that Biden and DHS Secretary Mayorkas need to double down to ensure independent and consequential investigations of CBP malfeasance. Let’s #ControlBorderPatrol.

Finally, why oh why are Border Patrol agents allowed to engage in racial profiling within our border communities? We know that bad policy, the courts and a misguided notion about national security are allowing for this, but it’s high time for policymakers and the courts to end racial profiling everywhere. Period. Racial profiling has no place anywhere, including in our border communities.

_Vote-a-rama drama: this weekend, perhaps as early as Saturday afternoon, a vote-a-rama on the Inflation Reduction Act will start on the Senate floor, which means a free-for-all of amendments from both Democrats and Republicans will be put up for a vote. SBCC urges senators to vote “NO” on any anti-immigrant or further border militarization amendments. A poll in late May suggested that “cracking down on illegal immigration with stronger border enforcement” is not a winning message for a candidate when contrasted against a candidate who says the priority should be to build “a function[al] immigration system that processes migrants at the border in a fair, orderly, and humane way.” This poll coincides with SBCC’s recent polling — conducted in partnership with the U.S. Immigration Policy Center at the University of California in San Diego — of national voters that suggests that 75 percent of voters want Congress to create a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and that conditioning it on more border enforcement does not increase support. Instead, it lessens the intensity of support. Hey y’all candidates, time to listen to what the voters want.

_Wall-e World. When you think about it, the movie Wall-e was about a post-apocalyptic world that had been over-run by garbage and environmental destruction, which seems totally appropos when contemplating Trump’s — and now Biden’s — lethal border wall. The first iteration of the border wall, built after the 2006 Secure Fence Act, consisted of vehicle barriers (like Normandy cross barriers that allowed wildlife to cross, but not vehicles) and 18-foot tall pedestrian barriers, typically built through urban centers along the U.S.-Mexico border (but, ironically and perhaps indicating an underlying racism, not along the U.S.-Canada border). Almost immediately, the U.S. saw an increase in deaths of migrants who were funneled into crossing in more remote and dangerous locations as part of the prevention through deterrence strategy. These deaths have only been made worse by Trump’s vanity and lethal border wall, where under his direction more than 400 miles of the 660 miles of previously installed border barrier were converted to 30-foot tall border walls. As a result, we have seen a nine-fold increase in deaths and more serious injuries from falls from these border walls, including the recent death of Joel Reyes-Muñoz (¡presente!), who died after failing to receive timely medical intervention (story quotes Yours Truly)  — not to mention the thousands of deaths that resulted from people pushed to cross in more remote, dangerous regions. Border walls and other “deterrence through prevention” tactics have not altered the number of people arriving to our southern border seeking safety and a better life, but have contributed to the deaths and suffering of people. Why does the Biden administration want to be seen as contributing to these deaths? It is completely unforgivable that Biden defends and quietly (and shamefully) agrees to closing border wall “gaps” in the Yuma Sector, allegedly to “protect migrants from harm,” while at the same time clearly disregarding environmental protections for at-risk endangered species. Frankly, it is shameful and preposterous that a president who ran on promises for stronger environmental protections agrees to putting endangered species at higher risk for extinction

We were pleased to learn that one of three male jaguars, El Jefe, who had been seen in Arizona mountain ranges was recently seen alive and well in Sonora, Mexico. Our sincerest hope is that the Biden administration cares enough to preserve and protect the migration of jaguars and other endangered species that depend on crossing the U.S.-Mexico border for food, water and reproductive diversity. But it’s equally important that the Biden administration cares about the life of humans and that his administration makes significant and meaningful changes away from punitive immigration and border measures to humane and orderly processing measures for people who seek to regularize their status in the United States and those who are seeking protection here. 

On hopeful note, we were encouraged to hear that the Biden administration is temporarily suspending border barrier construction near Friendship Park, California — a symbol of binational unity first dedicated in 1971 by First Lady Pat Nixon. Let’s hope CBP takes to heart the concern expressed by San Diego and binational communities and that they permanently suspend this construction to ensure Friendship Park lives up to its original values and intent.


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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