Christian Ramirez, Director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC), issued the following statement in response to the naming of Ronald Vitiello to lead the U.S. Border Patrol:
We expect Chief Vitiello to engage with border communities in productive and meaningful dialogue that addresses the agency’s long-standing issues, including a deeply ingrained culture of violence that has led to countless abuses and death.
With his more than 30 years of service in the Border Patrol, Chief Vitiello knows first-hand that the best way to move the agency forward is by working with border communities with respect and professionalism. We urge the new chief to return to the table and continue the difficult work of reforming the Border Patrol, which is part of the largest law enforcement agency in the country.
Timing could not be more critical given the intent of the new administration to increase border enforcement in a manner that is out of sync with the needs of border communities. President Trump seeks to further militarize our region when what we need is to revitalize it. Through a federal loophole, Border Patrol agents can and do regularly stop, interrogate, and search children on their way to school, parents on their way to work, families going to doctor appointments or places of worship. If we are to protect the civil liberties and the quality of life of border residents, we must recognize that these excessive powers are trampling on our communities.
We look forward to working with Chief Vitiello to ensure that Border Patrol operates with the highest professional policing practices by implementing sorely needed transparency, oversight, and accountability reforms.
The Southern Border Communities Coalition brings together more than 60 organizations from San Diego, California, to Brownsville, Texas, to ensure that border enforcement policies and practices are accountable and fair, respect human dignity and human rights, and prevent the loss of life in the region. For more information, please visit www.southernborder.org.