SOUTHERN BORDER — The Trump administration is putting the lives of millions at even greater risk during this pandemic as it continues to build more wall, send more troops, and operate interior checkpoints, forcing people across the southern border to choose between accessing healthcare or getting deported (see map with checkpoints and hospital locations).
As millions of people adhere to urgent public health directives to stay at home to try to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Trump administration is putting wall construction workers and residents at risk, while surveyors in Texas enter private property in the middle of a pandemic. In addition, from San Diego, CA to Brownsville, TX, Border Patrol agents are stopping community members at interior checkpoints up to 100 miles inside the United States, blocking people from accessing healthcare, and questioning DACA recipients. The Trump administration also announced an intent to deploy active-duty troops to the southern border as part of an alleged, but clearly racist, response to COVID-19.
Resident confronts Border Patrol in Temecula, CA
Southern border communities call for the following to protect the health and safety of border residents and protect the vulnerable as we combat COVID-19:
- Immediately halt all aspects of border wall construction and instead focus resources on the public health crisis
- Shut down Border Patrol checkpoints inside the US that interfere with border communities’ ability to access crucial healthcare
- Release people from short-term custody to be with family or community sponsors during this pandemic
- End the deployment of military troops to border communities
Vicki B. Gaubeca, director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition, said:
"We strongly encourage border communities to shelter at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and save lives. If someone is experiencing severe symptoms, such as shortness of breath or extremely high fevers, they should follow the advice of public health experts and get themselves tested or seek medical attention. Unfortunately, in many border communities not everyone can access health care services because of interior Border Patrol checkpoints or roving patrols, including near health care facilities. In a public health crisis, we should all be focused on saving people, not searching for them to deport them. In addition, wall construction ignores social distancing guidelines and is irresponsible. Now is the time for Border Patrol to suspend its enforcement activities so we can prevent the spread of the disease and ensure everyone has access to health care."
Lilian Serrano, a steering committee member of SBCC and human rights organizer with Alianza Comunitaria, said:
“The use of checkpoints, like the one in Temecula, California that stands between farmworkers and the nearest hospital, sends the wrong message at a time like this. There are checkpoints on all of our highways in San Diego County. The continued construction of a deadly border wall in our community sends a clear message that the current administration would rather continue to institutionalize its hateful rhetoric than work toward public health solutions that keep our communities safe and healthy. What we need now is the removal of barriers for specialized health care, and to cease border wall construction so that workers and border residents alike can shelter in place and stop the spread of this global health crisis.”
Christina Patiño Houle, SBCC co-chair and Network Weaver for the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network, said:
“The health of our communities in Texas is incumbent on the commitment of all public sectors to place the health of people first — including those in detention centers and prisons. Now, more than ever, we need to stop the dangerous militarization of our region that puts our most vulnerable community members at risk, and move towards practices and policies that uphold public health and the human rights of all.”
Johana Bencomo, SBCC co-chair and executive director for New Mexico Comunidades en Acción y de Fé (CAFé) said:
“Despite the fact that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has ordered that COVID-19 testing sites become available in every county, immigrant communities in New Mexico like Deming, Columbus, Lordsburg, Hatch and Alamogordo won’t have access to vital medical services due to unnecessary and dangerous checkpoints. The only way to ensure that New Mexico stays safe during this global pandemic is to stop the militarization of our communities and provide fair and equitable access to healthcare services for all people who need them.”
ABOUT THE SOUTHERN BORDER COMMUNITIES COALITION
The Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC) brings together 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.