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 		 [The Guardian’s review of claims made against US Customs and
Border Protection over the last dozen years shows cause for concern
over unreasonable search and seizure.] [https://portside.org/] 

 'WE LIVE AS SECOND-CLASS CITIZENS': WHAT IT'S LIKE TO FACE BORDER
AGENTS EVERY DAY  
[https://portside.org/2018-05-09/we-live-second-class-citizens-what-its-face-border-agents-every-day]


 

 Sarah Macaraeg 
 May 3, 2018
The Guardian
[https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/may/03/border-patrol-agents-second-class-citizens]


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 _ The Guardian’s review of claims made against US Customs and
Border Protection over the last dozen years shows cause for concern
over unreasonable search and seizure. _ 

 Jorge Rodriguez, Juan Antonio Labreche/CJ Project 

 

The moment that Jorge Rodriguez noticed five armed border patrol
agents beginning to surround his car, his first instinct was to tell
his 17-year-old cousin, in the passenger seat next to him, to pick up
his hands and not make any sudden movements.

The pair, both US citizens, had been stopped on their way home from a
movie at a checkpoint outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico
[https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/newmexico], approximately 60
miles north of the border. The young men had already answered
questions about their nationality and where they had been that
evening.

They were not armed. The only problem was that Rodriguez, then aged
23, had refused to consent to a warrantless search of his family’s
vehicle, citing the constitution.

“I was trying to show my cousin ... ‘You didn’t do anything
wrong and you have rights,’” Rodriguez said. But wary of the
officers’ hands on their holsters, he opted to concede, granting the
inspection of his backseat.

“I’m aware of what this agency has gotten away with,” he said.

Following the election of Donald Trump, Rodriguez’s experiences with
border patrol checkpoints prompted him to walk away from a spot in a
PhD program, in favor of organizing “Know Your Rights” trainings
with the New Mexico American Civil Liberties Union. The organization
is also challenging
[https://www.aclu.org/blog/immigrants-rights/ice-and-border-patrol-abuses/greyhound-has-choice-warrantless-searches] the
agency’s controversial practice of boarding Greyhound buses.

A Guardian investigation this week
[https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/01/border-patrol-violence-us-paid-60m-to-cover-claims-against-the-agency] has
revealed that the US government has paid out more than $60m in legal
settlements over a decade, where border agents were involved in
deaths, driving injuries, alleged assaults and wrongful detention. 

The research also pieced together cases of 97 civilians who died
[https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/may/02/fatal-encounters-97-deaths-point-to-pattern-of-border-agent-violence-across-america] after
encounters with border agents, which took place in 11 states and up to
160 miles inside US borders.

Civil rights advocates are not alone in promoting oversight of the
border patrol’s inland operations.

“Increased spending on border security in recent years hasn’t been
accompanied by necessary oversight, accountability or transparency,”
said Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke. “This has led to concerns
over the protection of constitutional rights and situations where we
have failed to properly train and equip our agents and officers, who
have some of the toughest jobs in government.”

A rising star in the Democratic party, with his sights set on
unseating Senator Ted Cruz in the November mid-term election,
O’Rourke has twice introduced bipartisan legislation
[https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/3020] that
proposes the appointment of regional oversight committees, revamped
agent training, transparent reporting and the immediate commencement
of congressional studies on agents’ use of force, migrant deaths and
operations inland.

As a US citizen and grandson of a guestworker, Rodriguez was raised
approximately 80 miles north of the border in Hatch, New Mexico – a
tiny village with an outsize reputation as “the chile capital of the
world”. Although Hatch’s prized commodity draws tourists, the town
has few restaurants and stores, prompting residents to regularly
commute to nearby Las Cruces. A permanent border patrol checkpoint
awaits them on the return, established on a highway roughly 60 miles
inside the US from its border with Mexico.

In order to run to Target for his mom, go to prom, spend time with his
grandmother or simply explore the nearest big city of El Paso, Texas,
Rodriguez has had to answer to armed federal agents. He estimates
he’s undergone more than 300 checkpoint stops over the last nine
years, since he turned 16 and began driving.

The upshot of living in the borderlands, according to historian Kelly
Lytle Hernandez, a professor at the University of California Los
Angeles and author of the book Migra! A History of the US Border
Patrol, is: “Governance untethered by the United States
constitution.”

In theory, the border patrol’s powers are limited by the fourth
amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Agents
should not conduct stops amid roving patrols without reasonable
suspicion, and requested searches can be refused, barring a warrant. A
spokesperson also said the agency is “committed to the fair,
impartial and respectful treatment of all members of the trade and
traveling public”.

But the Guardian’s review of claims made against the agency over the
last dozen years shows cause for concern.

When sued in civil court, a US Customs and Border Protection
spokesperson said it does not refer those allegations of misconduct to
the Department of Homeland Security’s complaint review system
because agency policy determines that any incident involving injury or
death would have already been investigated internally.

Suits resulting in settlements have been filed by: an Ohio father who
said he was detained while walking his child home from school by an
agent with a hand on his holster; a Greyhound passenger and
naturalized citizen who described being forced off a bus, assaulted
and hospitalized before being released without charges; and a tourist
who said her family was followed through a checkpoint by an agent who
sexually assaulted her.

Other settlements include a lawfully present refugee pulled off an
Amtrak train in Montana and placed in immigrant detention for a week;
a US citizen who said he was coerced into signing his own deportation
order, after a Texas sheriff’s deputy stopped him 80 miles inland
and called border patrol; a pregnant, lawful visa holder who said she
was denied food and insulin during a 16-hour detention.

Further settlement cases uncovered by Guardian research included a
64-year-old San Diego market vendor who said an agent held a gun to
her head for no reason; two prison guards of color who described being
stopped multiple times by agents in Washington state; a Native
American man who said he was beaten after leaving a checkpoint in
order to race his mother to the hospital; a Somali refugee with lawful
asylum status who was detained for 49 days after passing through a
checkpoint; and an Arizona pastor who said he was targeted with a
Taser after refusing to consent to a vehicle search.

“I already live in a region where my mere existence is
criminalized,” Rodriguez said of the recent national guard
deployment, describing border communities as the “collateral
damage” of ramped up enforcement policy, “whether it’s the wall
or a wall of agents”.

“We live as second-class citizens,” he said.

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