Border Communities Fear Border Patrol 'Can Get Away with Murder,' Activist Says

Hundreds of people line up to meet friends and relatives on the other side of the border for a few minutes in the Rio Grande at Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on Jan 28, 2017. (AP Photo/Christian Torres)

WASHINGTON – Border communities in the United States “do not trust Customs and Border Protections (CBP) agents,” according to Christian Ramirez, director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC).

“Border communities are appalled, but not surprised, to learn that the Trump administration plans to deploy even more Border Patrol agents to our region. Tens of millions of residents who call the border region home already live under the threat of encountering border agents who can get away with murder,” Ramirez said on a conference call held by America’s Voice with immigrant rights activists on Tuesday. “We get racially profiled on our way to school. In fact, if I want to take my child to visit his grandparents in the neighboring Imperial County, I have to go through a checkpoint.”

“Simply put, our communities do not trust CBP agents,” he added. “By lowering hiring standards and not establishing commensurate accountability and oversight mechanisms to control Border Patrol, the administration will allow the shameful culture of impunity and violence that plagues the nation’s largest law-enforcement agency to remain in place. Border communities are among the safest in the country.”

Tom Jawetz, vice president of Immigration at the Center for American Progress, said ICE’s enforcement actions are “intruding on places” that were previously protected under the Obama administration. Jawetz argued that these actions are connected to a decrease in reports of rape in Latino communities, specifically in Los Angeles and Houston.

“We’re seeing frequent and highly visible enforcement actions at courthouses around the country, arrests taking place across the street from a church and directly in front of a school,” he said.

Jawetz predicted that administration officials might begin to claim they are cleaning up “criminality” in certain communities experiencing declining reports of crime.

“That’s the sort of thing to keep an eye out for,” he said.

Greg Chen, director of government relations at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the draft version of the DHS progress report demonstrates that Trump is “following through” on his campaign promises regarding illegal immigration.

“The leaked report shows that the Trump administration is following through with his campaign promise to create the largest deportation machine in history by building a border wall, hiring even more deportation agents and paying for additional detention beds. Both Republicans and Democrats have criticized the plan as unnecessary and a waste of billions of American taxpayer dollars,” he said. “The leaked plan won’t make America safer or create jobs for Americans, which is what our country needs. The plan will also turn America’s back on asylum seekers at our borders and send them into life-threatening dangers without a fair chance to request protection as U.S. law guarantees.”

America’s Voice held a separate conference call on Wednesday in which immigrant rights activists expressed opposition to the Trump administration’s request for additional immigration law enforcement funding.

Cristina Jimenez, the executive director and co-founder of United We Dream, said her organization’s members have been “confronting” members of Congress with a “demand” for less immigration law enforcement. Members are also visiting congressional district offices with the same message.

“Not one dime for detention camps, the deportation force or the border wall – and in the weeks past we have already done nearly 30 district visits to deliver this petition,” Jimenez said. “All of our members, DREAMers and our families, know exactly what Trump intends with all of this. He wants to put us all in detention camps and deport us from our home. This country is our home, even if Trump and his supporters and his budget proposal tell us we don’t belong here.”

Ronald Newman, director of strategic initiatives at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the Department of Homeland Security funding levels in the Trump budget proposal are too high.

“We as an organization are calling on Congress to demand more constructive and humane policies from the Trump administration before cutting the administration a blank check,” Newman said.

“We are concerned, for instance, that the funds under discussion will allow the administration to run a bloated system of immigration detention facilities that might hold more than 40,000 people every day, people who do not pose a threat to our communities or people who do not pose a flight risk,” he added.