The Status of Human and Civil Rights in the Border 2000-2003” El Paso, tx and Southern New Mexico



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TWO - US/MEXICO BORDER REPORTS:
The Status of Human and Civil Rights in the Border 2000-2003”

El Paso, TX and Southern New Mexico

The Status of Human and Civil Rights in the Border 2004-2005”



El Paso, TX and Southern New Mexico


Prepared and Compiled by the:


BORDER NETWORK FOR HUMAN RIGHTS




Acknowledgments:


We recognized primarily the great work and commitment of the 53 Human Rights Promoters, the 11 Human Rights Community Based Committees, the 2 regional coordinators and the staff of the Border Network for Human Rights. Without them this report or the Border Network would not exist.


The Border Network value the advice and support to its human rights work of the Texas Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under the Law, the Women Intercultural Center, the Peace and Justice Ministry of the Catholic Diocese of El Paso, the Agricultural Workers Project, the Border Workers Association and Valley Movement for Human Rights
It is also important to thanks the understanding and great support to the BNHR given by The Ford Foundation, The Catholic Legal Immigration Network –National Immigrant Empowerment Project, The Peace Development Fund, The Tides Foundation and The Shaler- Adams Foundation.
BHNR specially appreciate the help of Adriana Cadena in editing the content of this report.
Immigrant Rights are Human Rights
Fernando Garcia, Director


Contact Information:
Border Network for Human Rights

2101-B Myrtle Ave, El Paso, TX 79901

Phone: (915) 577-0724

Fax: (915) 5770370

E-Mail: bordernet2001@yahoo.com

Border Network for Human Rights

611 S. Kansas El Paso Texas 79901 Phone (915) 577-0724 Fax (915) 577-0370


A US/MEXICO BORDER REPORT:

THE STATUS OF HUMAN AND CIVIL RIGHTS 2000 - 2003


EL PASO, TEXAS – SOUTHERN NEW MEXICO


INTRODUCTION

The Border Network for Human Rights - BNHR is a partnership of many human rights community based committees on the US/Mexico border. BNHR's general purpose is to facilitate the education, organizing and participation of marginalized border communities to defend and promote human and civil rights; the objective being that these communities work to create political, economic, and social conditions where every human being is equal in dignity and rights. Currently, BNHR focuses its work in immigrant communities in colonias of El Paso and in southern New Mexico (Las Cruces, Anthony, Chaparral, Berino, Vado, Palmeras, etc.).

In the last three years (2000-2003) the Border Network for Human Rights has coordinated community-based campaigns to document cases of law enforcement misconduct. Local residents were trained as Rights Promoters on how to identify and document law enforcement abuse. More than 50 Rights Promoters from various border communities in the region have been the leading force in observing, educating and documenting the status of human and civil rights in their own communities. It is through these community efforts that BNHR is able to release this report which brings attention to the state of civil and human rights through testimonials, graphics and data collected from 2000 to 2003. This report is also a desperate cry from border communities for justice, human rights and peace.


THE BORDER AND THE OTHER REALITY
U.S. communities that lie along the border with Mexico live a reality that is essentially different from the rest of the country. U.S. immigration policy has transformed the region into a militarized zone where the U.S. Constitution and international law are selectively applied. By failing to recognize and affirm the fundamental human right of mobility, U.S. immigration laws and efforts to “secure” the southern border have had dire human consequences, from the ever-increasing tally of migrant deaths on the border to the systemic violation of the civil and human rights of border crossers and those living in border communities. A combination of factors – the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service’s (INS) lengthy history of abuse and impunity, INS’s recent rapid and dramatic expansion to three separate entities, and the passage and implementation of restrictive immigration laws that drastically curtail and criminalize the human right of mobility – have created rife conditions with the potential for increased violence against border residents and migrants alike, ultimately threatening the foundations of democracy in the United States.


HUMAN RIGHT OF MOBILITY (1)

Historically, the mobility and conditions of mobility of human beings have been integral to strategies of survival, well-being and economic development. In the current context, the movements of people across international borders have been accelerated by integrated world economy and world trade systems. While spurred on by the current global economic development, the autonomous, unregulated movement of persons poses, in the same instance, a challenge to the existing and forming global economic and political structures. These structures’ influence and interest in quashing this threat to the development strategy of the current global economic configuration are increasingly visible in the convergence of immigration control policies of receiving nations, despite major differences in their domestic political economies and histories.


Nation-state regulatory schemes condition the mobility across borders for international migrants within a global class structure. Economic and political elites move without obstacles in this global arrangement. Immigration and border control policies in this global system have made it possible for a minority to become more and more mobile by providing the legal flexibility for the exit and entrance of government officials, business owners, executives, administrators, and support technical. At the same time, these policies limit the mobility of low-skilled labor and the internationally displaced who are poor – most of who are generally people of color.
Physical and other barriers to the movement of people have proliferated for poor international migrants. In fact, most people have become less and less mobile in being able to travel and move as they need and want, given the system of state control of movement through passports, exit and entry visas and militarized borders. In this way, the nation-state border control policies are shaped to ensure the inequality of mobility as a part of the maintenance of larger socio-economic inequalities on a national and international scale.
Erecting borders for international labor makes it difficult for large numbers of workers to leave areas considered “favorable” for the establishment and expansion of transitional production units such as the assembly plants. At the same time, this creates the legal mechanisms for the increased exploitation of international migrants in dynamic and expanding economic sectors in receiving countries. In this manner, border control is sought as a policy decision not so much to stop unauthorized migration, but to frame the conditions in which international labor participates in the economic, social and political spheres in countries of origin and receiving countries.
Sustaining regulatory schemes that guarantee the control and inequality of mobility are essential for the strategy of high profits and low wages. For that reason, the use of armed force, border policing agencies, including the military, and institutional violence are necessary aspects of the global economic structure to enforce compliance with immigration and border control policies. In fact, the combination of global economic development, military integration, and the denial of rights of displaced populations, domestically and internationally, reproduces a de facto system of slavery for marginalized economic and social sectors, particularly the international migrants.

U.S. BORDER CONTROL POLICY AND ENFORCEMENT APPARATUS

No other border control policy better illustrates this complex global integration and the inequality of the movement of persons than that of the United States with respect to its border with Mexico.


While the very establishment of the U.S./Mexico border was the product of a U.S. military conquest, in recent years, the U.S. border has played host to a considerable expansion in the application of military logic in its domestic terrain. The expansion is evident in both the U.S. military’s direct and indirect involvement in areas of civil law enforcement and law enforcement agencies’ adoption of military strategy and characteristics.
By deeming international drug trafficking a national security threat in 1986, then-President Reagan opened the door to the use of the U.S. military in domestic affairs. The U.S. Department of Defense formalized the military’s involvement in drug interdiction in 1989 by creating the Joint Task Force-Six (JTF-6) with a mandate to provide military personnel for observation, reconnaissance, intelligence analysis and training. Quartered at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, the JTF-6 would conduct more than 4,000 covert ground troop operations in the next eight years, eighty percent of these on the southern border. The majority of these operations were conducted at the request of the U.S. Border Patrol.
In several incidents, migrants and border residents encountered the JTF-6 coordinated troops with deleterious consequences for the civilians. In January 1997, a Green Beret exercise resulted in the wounding of a Mexican immigrant crossing into the United States via Texas’ Rio Grande Valley; the troops justified their actions as one of self-defense. Five months later in May 1997, the death of Esequiel Hernandez, a U.S. citizen shot by four Marines carrying out a similar covert operation, brought to light the degree of involvement of the military in policing domestic populations. While military patrols on the border were subsequently suspended, the door for continued direct military involvement on the border has not been closed. In 1999, Congress passed an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act empowering the Secretary of Treasury and the Attorney General with the authority to request ground troop operations from the Secretary of Defense. The specific objective of the amendment was to deter drug smuggling, illegal immigration and terrorism.

INS ENHANCEMENT

Between 1993 and 1999, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) became one of the fastest growing federal law enforcement agencies, with a nearly threefold total budgetary increase during the six-year period of $2.7 billion, from $1.5 to $4.2 billion. From 1994 to 1998 more than $3.3 billion was spent on the Border Patrol, the enforcement branch of the INS. The bulk of this funding has been used to hire more agents, resulting in a 140% increase in the number of agents over the four years, from 980 in 1994 to 2,264 as of June 1998. Land Border Inspectors have increased from 202 in 1994 to 504 in 1998. The INS is the federal agency with the largest number of officers authorized to carry firearms and make arrests. Under a congressional mandate to carry on its rapid growth, the INS received $4.8 billion for fiscal year 2001.


Increases in personnel have been accompanied by an increased use of technologies and equipment, usually with military development origins. Infrared body sensors and footfall detectors, developed for use in Vietnam, are deployed throughout the border region. From 1994 to 1998, the INS purchased an additional 47 infrared scopes, and hundreds of underground footfall sensors. Coupled with the increase of detection equipment is the creation and use of high-tech computer systems and databases to track undocumented entrants.
The budget request for the INS, now under the Homeland Security Department, from the President for Y 2003 was for $6.3 billion. The budget request covers an additional 2,200 new positions to the INS. In addition, the budget includes a $1.2 billion targeted for measures to improve homeland security and combating terrorism.

IMPACT ON COMMUNITIES

Migrant Deaths on the Border

A particularly tragic consequence of the U.S.’ “seal-the-border” immigration law enforcement strategy has been the ever-increasing number of migrant deaths on the border. An on-going study by the Center for Immigration Research at the University of Houston has shown a direct causal relationship between migrants’ deaths and U.S. border control policy. The walls, lights, increase in agents and military support employed in the special enforcement campaigns of Operation Gatekeeper in California, Operation Safeguard in Arizona, Operation Rio Grande in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, and Operation Hold the Line in the El Paso region, have dramatically increased the mortality risks for migrants. These operations apply the logic of the INS’ Southwest Border Strategy by intentionally shifting immigration flows to isolated, less populous areas where the detection and apprehension of migrants is made easier. However, this redirection to other parts of the border fails to deter entry; rather, it delays entry and increases the risks to migrants as they move toward more dangerous and remote areas of the border to avoid detection.

Tallies of migrant fatalities maintained by the INS revealed a marked increase from 231 in 1999 to 369 in 2000. The majority of these migrants originate from Mexico. In 2001, the figure rose to 491. In 2002, the number of deaths dropped to 371; however, in the first seven months of 2003, Mexico's Secretariat of Exterior Relations reported that 282 Mexicans died while trying to cross to the US. This is a 20% increase in the number of deaths when compared to the same period in 2002.




Increased Abuse

The “seal-the-border” enforcement measures have increased the level and intensity of human rights abuses suffered by border communities. For example, a comparative analysis of abuses reported in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley prior to and following the initiation of Operation Rio Grande reveals a 38 percent increase in abuse; 139 abuses from January – August, 1997 compared to 192 abuses from September 1997 through April 1998.



Racial Discrimination in Enforcement Practice

Individual immigration law enforcement practice reflects the discriminatory nature of border control policy. Although immigration stops based solely on race are generally prohibited, the U.S. Supreme Court’s legal endorsement of the consideration of race coupled with other factors as a basis to initiate questioning results in widespread racial discrimination against persons of Mexican origin. Despite the fact that only half of immigrants unlawfully residing in the U.S. are Mexican nationals, the profile of the undocumented person as one with “Mexican appearance” still stands and is applied daily by immigration law enforcement agents.


Private Citizens and organizations also employing this profile have, on occasion, taken the law into their own hands, further endangering the Mexican origin population. In Douglas, Arizona, armed ranchers near the border have used force to detain migrants crossing their property. A young Mexican migrant was shot and killed when he approached a property owner near Del Rio, Texas, asking for water.

Human Rights Consequences

Coupled with the INS’ history of abuse and impunity, race-based stops not only result in violations of the right to be free from racial discrimination, but also expose Mexican-origin persons to a potential host of other human rights abuses as well. When it comes to the Mexican-origin population, these human rights consequences transcend immigration status.



ABUSE DOCUMENTATION CAMPAIGN OF 2000: PRINCIPAL FINDINGS
The abuse documentation campaign conducted in the El Paso region of Texas in December 2000 revealed that of the victims of abuse, all of whom were Latino, 71 percent were either U.S. citizens or lawfully present in the U.S.
General Criteria:

Denial of Liberty/Wrongful Detention, 14 cases

Endangerment, 4 cases

Physical, Psychological, and/or Verbal Abuse, 19 cases

Wrongful Search, 4 cases

Wrongful Confiscation of Property, 3 cases

Denial of Basic Necessities, 5 cases

(23) Lawfully present

(3) Unknown

(15) U.S. Citizens

(12) Undocumented

Source: Border Network for Human Rights – El Paso, December 2000.

TESTIMONIAL DOCUMENTATION
Race-based stops open the door for other abuses to occur – from verbal mistreatment, denial of due process rights and deprivation while in custody to excessive use of force and even torture.
Border Patrol Raid at Berino Elementary School, June 2002.

“…The Principal of Berino Elementary arranged a meeting with parents to discuss the behavior of our children at school. The meeting took place at the school library, the principal was there along with a sheriff, and a gentleman dressed in plain clothes. When the principal finished speaking, he left the room. We were left behind with the sheriff and the gentleman who identified himself as an immigration agent. He asked us to present our ID’s and immigration papers; later another agent in green uniform arrived. They took us in a border patrol truck and an unmarked vehicle.”

Ms. R., who was pregnant at the time, was taken into custody. She was not allowed to drink water, or consume any food for more than eight hours.
As a result I ended up at the hospital dehydrated, after that they deport me to Juárez.”
VERBAL ABUSE TESTIMONY
Border Patrol agent’s intimidation and humiliation of a 25 year-old Mexican male, April 2000.

“…Then the agent pulled down my pants and said that he would see if I was Honduran or not. He yelled at me: ‘Tell the truth because if you don’t, we’ll turn you over to the Mexican authorities and it’ll be worse! If you say you’re Honduran, we’ll let you go.’ I told them: ‘How can I say that I’m from another country when it’s not true?’ They took down some information about me, my fingerprints. While I was waiting, another agent came over to me and asked me if I was being lazy. I said ‘no’ and he told me to tell the truth and grabbed me by my shirt and yelled: ‘Here, you’re in my house and you’ll going to do what I tell you to do!’ He threw me down against the wall and told me to “fuck my mother”. I wasn’t taken to bridge until 2:30 a.m. During the whole time I was detained, they never gave me any food or water.”



DEPRIVATION TESTIMONY



INS’ denial of medical attention to the five-month old U.S. citizen child of a 33 year-old Mexican mother, May 1998.

...Since my five-month old son, Isaac, was very ill, my husband took him to see a doctor in Juarez. The doctor told him that Isaac needed to go to a hospital in the United States immediately. On his way back to El Paso, the Immigration agents asked for Isaac’s birth certificate after he told them that he was born in the U.S. He tried to explain that he had forgotten it in the rush and that Isaac was very sick and needed immediate medical attention.


The agents accused him of kidnapping Isaac and, instead of calling the ambulance, they proceeded to interrogate him. My son got worse, though, and by the time the officers finally called the ambulance, the paramedics couldn’t save him. My son died on the bridge.”

ABUSE DOCUMENTATION CAMPAIGN OF 2002-2003: PRINCIPAL FINDINGS
Residents of the El Paso/Southern New Mexico border region reported a significant number of human rights abuses during 2002 and 2003 that demonstrate a constant pattern in which the U.S. Constitution and international law are selectively applied in the region. In an on-going documentation campaign, more than 80 cases have been documented. The cases include fourteen types of abuse; the vast majority of the cases involved more than one type of abuse.
General Criteria:

Deprived of basic necessities (in custody)-15 reported events

Inappropriate use of firearm-6 reported event

Physical abuse (not in custody) - 23 reported events

Psychological or verbal abuse- 40 reported events

Violation of due process rights- 28 reported events

Wrongful temporary detention- 35 reported events

Wrongful detention by police- 5 reported events

Wrongful arrest- 46 reported events

Wrongful deportation- 19 reported events

Wrongful search of person (not at border or Point Of Entry) - 11 reported events

Wrongful search of vehicle (not at border / POE) - 1 reported events

Wrongful entry- 25 reported events

Torture (in custody) - 1 reported events

Denial of right to enter U.S. (at border / POE) - 3 reported events

Graphics for 2002-2003 Ongoing Abuse Documentation Campaign


TESTIMONIAL DOCUMENTATION
Vado, New Mexico
UNLAWFUL ENTRY INTO A HOME

“…On September 4, 2002, immigration agents unlawfully entered a home in Vado, New Mexico. Present in the home at the time was a young man, his seven day old daughter, his twelve year old brother and his father. Agents arrived at the house at approximately 6:30pm. The young man opened the door to his home and asked the agents to identify themselves. The agents refused to do so and entered the home. They searched the entire house. They arrested the young man’s father and refused to let him go to his baby’s room. Agents told him to step back or go to jail. Eventually the agents left with the young man’s father.”


Berino, New Mexico
UNLAWFUL CHECKPOINT

“… On September 14, 2002, three individuals were stopped by border patrol at an unauthorized “checkpoint.” The roadblock was set up on Berino Road in Berino, New Mexico. Border Patrol agents in a Blazer were stopping individuals and asking to see “documents.”


El Paso, Texas (Downtown Area)
INAPPROPRIATE USE OF FIREARM TESTIMONY
Mexican Immigrant Juan Patricio Peraza Killed in a Border Patrol Shooting.

“… Juan Patricio Peraza, a 19-year-old immigrant from Mexicali, Baja California, was shot to death on the hands of Border Patrol Agents on February 22, 2003. The incident occurred at San Antonio Street, a couple of blocks from the Mexican Consulate. The Border Patrol has justified this death by claiming that the agents were acting in self-defense; however, the majority of the witnesses have stated that Juan Patricio never assaulted the agents and that the use of firearms was simply unjustified”



Story of Border Patrol shooting an unarmed 26 year-old migrant.


“…We were a few hundred feet inside the U.S. when we were spotted by a Border Patrol agent. We began to run back toward the fence but because of the terrain, I fell behind. The agent fired four shots at us as we scrambled toward the fence. I stopped and turned around to surrender to the agent with the gun. I told him: “Don’t shoot,” but the agent shot me anyway from approximately 15 feet away, causing me to fall backwards down an embankment, seriously injuring my head. It was broad daylight and the agent could see that we were unarmed.”
ANALISYS OF FINDINGS


  1. Before the Department of Homeland Security was established, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was responsible for the majority 221 of 258 human rights abuses for 2000. The high percentage of abuses committed by the INS are of particular concern given the institution’s budget increases every year and additional Border Patrol Agents hired to carry out law enforcement without sufficient training in human rights.




  1. Human rights abuses impact a wide array of Latinos - U.S. citizens, permanent residents, border crossing card holders, and undocumented migrants. In 18% of the cases the victims of abuse were U.S. citizens. In 25% of the cases the victims were either U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or otherwise lawfully present in the U.S. This demonstrates that abuses along the border cannot be seen as an issue limited to undocumented migrants.




  1. In the U.S. undocumented persons were victims of abuse in 48% of the cases. It is likely that the number of abuses experienced by this group is much higher. However, people are hesitant to present complaints due to fear of retaliation from law enforcement agents.




  1. Human rights abuses along the El Paso/Southern New Mexico border region are not simply legal problems that can be resolved through litigation; rather abuses are social problems that create a climate of fear and intimidation in the daily life of border residents. In addition, law enforcement agents place the health and safety of border residents at risk.




  1. In both the El Paso and Southern New Mexico there is strong evidence that racial profiling is used as the initial motivation for law enforcement officers to approach individuals living in border communities. While driving, shopping, or walking on the street, Latinos were stopped for questionable reasons and asked to show their immigration papers.




  1. Another disturbing pattern evidenced in this report is the close collaboration between police officers and INS agents. In nine of the cases under Wrongful Temporary Detention, people were detained by police and then asked to show immigration documentation. This is the work of Immigration agents, not police officers. One result of this collaboration is that it makes people fearful of contacting the police in any situation, emergency or otherwise, when they are in need of assistance that could be provided by state or local law enforcement officers.




  1. A relevant fact that BNHR identified is that the amount incidences of abuse for the 2002-2003 campaign increased dramatically in comparison with the data collected in 2000. The attitude and behavior of some agents (border patrol) did not change after the first campaign but got more violent and in total disregard of Constitutional Rights and the life of people. At the same time the agency (Border Patrol) have done little to correct this misconduct patterns. As an example of this, the agent that killed the young Mexican immigrant Juan Patricio Peraza was absolved by a local Grand Jury even though the existence of some strong evidence that would put the agent on trail. For this, the local community still claims for justice.


RECOMMENDATIONS
In considering recommendations to prevent human rights abuses along the border, it is essential to recognize that all people in the U.S., regardless of their ethnicity or legal status, should have their basic human rights respected. Policies that criminalize migrants can lead to human rights abuses if law enforcement officers and agencies are not held accountable for their actions and operations.
The regional and national recommendations below are adapted from a several discussions within the Human Rights Community Based Committee, other local and border wide community organizations.
At the Regional Level:


  • The collaboration between police and immigration officers should be discontinued. Such collaboration creates a dangerous climate in which people are afraid to call the police in any type of emergency. The City Councils of El Paso and Las Cruces and corresponding sheriff departments should put out a resolution that ends such collaboration.




  • Grassroots education programs should be set up on both sides of the border to teach members of border communities about human rights. People should learn how to file a complaint against Immigration agents and other law enforcement officers as part of this training. This will facilitate in denouncing the human rights abuses that take place on the border.




  • Police officers and other law enforcement officers working on the border should receive ample training in human rights and community relations.


At the National Level:


  • Given the large number of people who are endangered and die crossing the border in risky conditions, we call for the cancellation of border operations such as “Hold the Line.” As noted in this report, these operations force people to attempt to cross the border in dangerous areas and these operations increase the number of deaths at the border.




  • Citizens’ committees should be formed to monitor the activities of the law enforcement agents in the border. And at the same time, establish an independent immigration review commission at the federal level.




  • Given that migrant workers are actively sought out in the U.S. economy, a new legalization program, which would grant full rights to those who are currently living in the US, is needed. In addition, protection should be granted to new immigrant workers who enter the country.




  • The complaint process against the immigration officers needs to improve. Many hesitate to make complaints against officers for of fear of retaliation. It is necessary to establish an independent review of Immigration agents and obligate law enforcement officers to respond to complaints about human rights abuses.


At the International Level:


  • The human right to mobility should be recognized and codify as a fundamental human right and allow all human beings to be able move freely and legally from one nation to another.




  • Article 13 of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.” This right to mobility must be respected in border communities.




  • The U.N. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination should be amended to include discrimination based on national origin. In addition, the UN should require country reports on the status of human rights of international migrants.




  • The U.N. should convene a conference of member states and non-governmental organizations to begin a dialogue for the elaboration and acceptance of multilateral agreements on the regulation of migratory flows.


CONCLUSION

In addition to basic human rights guaranteed by international treaties, the United States Constitution secures certain rights for all persons living in the United States, regardless of immigration status. Thus, migrants in the U.S. are entitled to due process and the equal protections of the laws. More specifically, under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, migrants have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and, except in narrow circumstances, law enforcement officials need a warrant to seize or search a person, his home or his belongings. In addition, law enforcement agents must have reasonable suspicion based on credible facts of wrongdoing to detain a person. The ethnicity or race of a person cannot serve as justification to detain someone. And, to arrest a person without a warrant, the law enforcement agent must have probable cause that a crime was committed and can use only reasonable force to make the arrest. Finally, persons are protected by the Fifth Amendment and guaranteed, among other things, the right to remain silent. A person’s refusal to answer questions posed by a law enforcement agent cannot be considered in determining whether there is probable cause to arrest. When the U.S. Constitution is not applied to a region of the country or group of individuals, its essence and significance in protecting the rights of the rest of society diminishes.

(1) Excerpts for “The Right of Mobility in the Global Era” by Maria Jimenez




Border Network for Human Rights

2101-A Myrtle Ave, El Paso Texas 79901 Phone (915) 577-0724 Fax (915) 577-0370


A PRELIMINARY REPORT

THE STATUS OF HUMAN AND CIVIL RIGHTS

AT THE BORDER 2004-2005

February 22nd of 2005

EL PASO, TEXAS – SOUTHERN NEW MEXICO

INTRODUCTION

The Border Network for Human Rights - BNHR is a partnership of many human rights community based committees on the US/Mexico border. BNHR's general purpose is to facilitate the education, organizing and participation of marginalized border communities to defend and promote human and civil rights; the objective being that these communities work to create political, economic, and social conditions where every human being is equal in dignity and rights. Currently, BNHR focuses its work in immigrant communities in colonias of El Paso and in southern New Mexico (Las Cruces, Anthony, Chaparral, Berino, Vado, Palmeras, etc.).

In the last three four years (2000-2004) the Border Network for Human Rights has coordinated community-based campaigns to document cases of law enforcement misconduct. Local residents were trained as Rights Promoters on how to identify and document law enforcement abuse. More than 50 Rights Promoters from various border communities in the region have been the leading force in observing, educating and documenting the status of human and civil rights in their own communities.


Today, February 22nd, on the Second Anniversary of the killing of the young immigrant Juan Patricio Peraza by Border Patrol agents, the Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR), along with the Dioceses of Las Cruces and El Paso, the Farm-Workers Center, and Poder de la Mujer is releasing preliminary results of the 4th Regional Campaign to Document Human Rights Violations in our border region.
For the year of 2004 human rights promoters of border communities in Southern New Mexico, Central and East of El Paso, Texas documented more then 100 cases of Human Rights Violations of three major categories: Abuse of Authority, Labor Rights and Domestic Violence.
The majority of the cases related to abuse of authority involved agents of the El Paso Police Department, the Sheriff Office and Immigration Agencies (ICE and Border Patrol). Within these reports emerged as extraordinary communities concern the fact that local police agents and county sheriffs acted as immigration agents, questioning and detaining border resident based on legal status. The incidents of this latter type of cases increased dramatically from previous years.
The 4th Human Rights Documentation Campaign collected identify cases of Labor Rights violations that addressed the issues of denial of pay for a work done, low salaries, etc. Additionally, a substantial amount of cases reporting Domestic Violence were also documented, signaling the importance of education and venues to stop family violence.


HUMAN RIGHTS DOCUMENTATION CAMPAIGN 2004
PRINCIPAL FINDINGS
The human rights documentation campaign conducted in the El Paso/Southern New Mexico region in 2004 collected around 100 cases of possible violation of human and constitutional rights of border residents.

Preliminary Statistics:

Total number of Incidents Processed and File (as of February 2005): 85


  • 35 Incidents involving Police & Sheriff Abuse or 43% of total.

  • 17 Incidents involving Border Patrol & ICE Agent Abuse or 20% of total.

  • 10 Incidents involving Labor Abuse or 11% of total.

  • 9 Incidents involving Domestic Violence or 10% of total.

  • 14 Incidents in “other” categories or 16%



Police & Sheriff Abuse Initial Breakdown:
32% of the total incidents involving Police & the Sheriff consisted of local officials performing Federal Immigration Tasks.


Documented Cases:

El Paso Police Officers Asking for “Immigration Documents”



Location of the Incident: 7th Street and Oregon


The Victim, Mr. Jose Chavez (a lawful permanent resident) was out looking for work as he always does everyday; however this day he decided to eat his lunch in the corner of 7th & Oregon when he was approached by Two Police officers on bicycles and they told him that he can't eat his lunch in the street like that and to show him his "Immigration Documents". Jose did not want to show and the officers thinking that he did not know English called him a "wetback" and then the officer called the US Border Patrol to take him away. Mr. Jose then passed himself as undocumented just so that he could go for the ride and see what occurs, there he realized that there was a lot of Discrimination and Racial Profiling and simply because we aren't Anglo they think were are here illegally.

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Location of the Incident: Mrs. Gonzalez’s home (Segundo Barrio)

Mrs. Gonzales stated that her, sister’s husband and kids were deported. The family was at home watching TV and the kids were playing; however, one of the kids called 911 on the phone by mistake. A Police officer showed up to the house to see if anything happened. The officer upon finding that nothing serious had happened then asked the family for their "Immigration Documents"; however, the Family did not have any. So the Police Officer left the home and waited outside the house until the Border Patrol showed up and took the family away.

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Location of the Incident: North Loop


Date and Time of the Incident: January 2005

Mr. G's son was driving on North Loop Street with a friend when he noticed a Police Car was following him. The Police Officer then stopped Mr. G’s son and quickly asked for identification; however, the son only showed him his Mexican Drivers License and then he asked the officer why he was being stopped. The officer did not respond and simply told the Victims he had just called the Border Patrol and that they were going to be deported back, also that a Towing Truck was on its way to pick-up their vehicle. The officer also stated that the Victim should sell his vehicle because through the license plates he could be stopped again.


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Location of the Incident: Intersection of Tigua & Arizona

Date and Time of the Incident: January 15, 2005 8 pm

The Victim had just dropped off a lady whom she just gave a ride to, when she noticed a Police Car following her. Mrs. Rojas was nervous and did not make a complete stop in an intersection and was then stopped by the Police Officer. The Police Officer than proceeded to ask for her "Immigration Documents." The officer, upon, finding out that she did not have any type of papers, told her that he was going to call the Border Patrol. Mrs. Rojas begged him not to and that she would pay for the infraction and that she needed to get back to work; however, she was still deported. (Mrs. Rojas is married to a US Citizen)

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Location of the Incident: Alameda Street

Date and Time of the Incident: July 04th afternoon 2004

The City Police stopped the Victim while driving on Alameda street for some expired stickers, they asked her for her ID, but she did not have it and then the Police Officer then called the Border Patrol and they then took the Victim away and deported her and her 13 year old son.



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Location of the Incident: ELPD Station

Date/Time of Incident: December 27th 2004

The Victim went to a Police Department in El Paso, TX to file a report & robbery of her purse, with her ID's and personal information. The Police officer then stated that he needed her ID in order to make the report; however, she again reminded him that it was in the purse that was robbed. The officer then asked her for her "immigration papers" and she stated that she did not have any. He then told her that she could not make the report because she was here "undocumented" and that she had to leave or else he would call and have her deported. That those were her 2 choices: stay and make the report but be deported or leave and not make any reports at all.


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Local Police/Sheriff/Border Patrol Collaborating in Immigration Enforcement Operations

Location of the Incident: La Feria Market Anthony, Texas


Date/Time of Incident: January 19th 2005

Victim had gone grocery shopping in "La Feria" in Anthony NM and as he was returning to his vehicle he noticed that the store was being surrounded by Police Agents. The Victim thought nothing much of it except that perhaps there had being a robbery, but as he neared his car he was approached by three Agents whom precede to ask him where he was from. The Victim responded that he was from here & the USA; however, the agents proceeded to ask for proof. The Victim had just left his home so he did not bring anything with him. The victim the asked the agents to identify themselves, and very reluctant they identified themselves as US Border Patrol Agents. The victim then told these Agents to simply check his Social Security number in the system to prove himself, but they replied that they did not have the time to do that. The Victim then told the Agents that he then had nothing to discuss with them and that he was going to leave. However, one of the Sheriff held his arm & told him that he they were not done with him. The victim then told the Sheriff to have a little respect and that was not his problem, he had done nothing wrong. The Sheriff then let him go and in a very rude manner told him to leave and not to return again. The victim then told them those agents that this was a free democratic country and not communist, as well as that it was very sad to see "Latinos" abusing their own people. The Agents again told the Victim to leave and not return, and, as he was leaving they blocked the exit for a couple of hours. The victim also noted that through those tactics they took around 40 or 50 people away, took them all away in a very rude and violent manner on unmarked white vans.

Other Police and Sheriff Incidents



Location of the Incident: Carol T Welsh School (Sparks)

Date and Time of the Incidents: August 2004


Type of the Possible Abuse: Inappropriate Use of Fire Arms

The Victim Luis was working at Carol T Welsh School when he decided to take his lunch break, so he and a friend sat down on a bench out side to eat there lunch when the victim notice noticed a couple of police cars driving around the school and one stopped in front of the school. So Mr. Dominguez then peeked over the rock wall to try and see what was going on, and a police officer got of the his vehicle with his gun on hand. The police officer saw Luis and pointed the gun at him while telling him to put his hand up and walk towards the officer. Luis told the officer he was a worker at the school and the officer lowered his gun and apologized. The officer said that they had received a call that someone was in the roof of the school possibly trying to burglarize it. When in reality it was just some kids who lost their ball and were looking for it on top of the roof of the school. Luis felt that the officer was very negligent in pointing the gun at him and should have been more careful, because his life could have been in danger.

Other ICE or Border Patrol Incidents



Location of the Incident: Transmountain Road

Type of Possible Abuse: Wrongful Search


The Victims (2 adults & a girl) where driving down Transmountain Road and where being followed by a US Border Patrol Vehicle. After 10 miles or so they where stopped. They were told to stay in the car and the agents proceeded to search and throw items out of the vehicle. Afterwards they asked the Victims for their paperwork. The Agents then asked Liza (Victim 1) if her daughter was a US Citizen and Liza proceeded to show the agents the proof the she was a Citizen; however, the agents merely ripped those papers and stated to Liza that her daughter could stay or she could accompany her Mother back to Mexico. Liza chose to bring her daughter back with her and she was told to chose between staying in detention or choosing Voluntary Deportation, Liza Chose Voluntary Deportation. One of the ladies was taken to the Detention Center in Fabens and was later released to Cd. Juarez after approximately three hours.

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Location of the Incident: Anthony NM (Southern NM)

Date and Time of the Incident: January 15, 2005

Type of Possible Abuse: Entry with No Warrant

Petra called the BNHR Office around 11:30 am on January 15, 2005 and stated that an Immigration Agent was at her home in an unmarked car and plain civilian clothes and in a very authoritive manner he was asking families for "Immigration Documents." The agent drove his White Ford Expedition inside the yard and took some of the family members away. He entered the house without a search warrant and asked people for their papers. Petra stated that this individual has followed their family around before and does not leave them alone.

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Location of the Incident: I-10 and Horizon Exit

Type of Possible Abuse: Racial Profiling


Mr. Soto had just picked up to co-workers at the Petro Gas Station/Truck stop, and was taking them back to the office when an unmarked police vehicle pulled them over. Mr. Soto believed he was being stopped for speeding; however, the plain-clothes officer identified himself as a Federal Agent and that he wanted to know who were the people he just picked up. While Mr. Soto was being questioned outside the vehicle, his two other co-workers were being questioned inside the vehicle. After about 30 minutes of questioning and identification check-up, they were finally let go. They felt they were stopped merely because of their appearance and mannerism.

Incidents Occurred at International Bridges and Port of Entry

Location of the incident: Santa Fe Bridge


Date/Time of Incident: November 2001

Type of Possible Abuse: Wrongful Detention/Inappropriate Cavity Search

The Victim was coming back from Cd. Juarez with her two sons in their car and was then being at the bridge, the agent then asked her to get out and come to an office inside & her sons were taken to another office. Inside the agents then ordered her to take her clothing off for inspection, the victim asked "why" but the agents did not pay her any attention. She told the Agents that she was nervous and did not want to do it, but after orders from the Agents, she unwillingly undressed and was searched and was given a body cavity search as well. However, the Agents found nothing and told her that she fit the profile of a Drug runner who hides drugs under clothing and in her body. Afterwards the Agents told her that she could leave, and she did leave humiliated and crying. Upon returning home, she told her husband but he merely told her that it was her fault for going to Juarez in the first place. Ever since that incident she has been emotionally and physically very bad. Due to her traumatic experience, she now refuses to go to Juarez again for fear of the incident happening again.

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Location of the incident: Santa Fe Bridge/Detention Center


Type of Possible Abuse: Wrongful Detention

Edilberto and a friend where together picking some items up at a house and loading them to a truck; when some Agents in a white unmarked Ford Expedition arrived and made themselves in to the backyard to them and asked them for their "immigration documents." Edilberto showed them his Social Security Card and they stated that was not valid and they then detained them and took them for detention to the bridge in Santa Teresa. Edilberto then asked to make a phone call, where they asked him if he wanted to go to the Detention Center, and signed his voluntary deportation because he was afraid to go to the Detention Center. However, while in the offices he again showed his Social Security Cards copy of his acceptance letter and the INS Agents simply rejected those papers. There was some discrepancy or question as to be able to deport Edilberto, because two agents stated that he could not be deported and two others stated that he could be deported. Edilbertos's friend called a family member, the family member stated that they have been told that the Victims where still in Santa Teresa and the family went but was unable to find them. The family then asked to speak with the Chief and they then showed the Chief the proof and the agent then stated that he could not be deported.

Labor Abuses & Violations

Description of Incident:



3 consistent called in reference to Vista Hills Nursing Home employees complaining about their employer. The employees state that the new Administration verbally abuses their employees with insults. That the Nursing home brings in new patients all the time without increasing the workforce, so they employees face an increase in hours with not enough pay, and they state the ones who suffer are the patients and their lack of attention.

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Description of Incident:

Mr. Jaime and Mr. Encarnacion both complain against the “Greenbay Corporation” and state that the management has become very abusing and controlling. Both men were fired from the Company after more than five years without cause and reason. They also stated that there are various employees that also complain about the Company but stay quiet for fear of termination from their jobs.

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Description of Incident:

The Victim states that he works in the Fields as a "Farm-Workers" and that when he is working in the Fields they should normally pay him $ .60 a bucket, but instead pay him $ .45 a bucket. The Victim also states that they pay him is cash as to not report to the IRS, that the Farmworkers do not have access to any bathrooms, and that they constantly harass and ridicule the workers with insults

Domestic Violence


Description of Incident:

The Victim, a young 19-year-old woman constantly argues with her husband, and has suffered various physical confrontations and abuse from him. However, every time she tries to get something done the officer simply tells them that they should take care of things themselves or else go to jail.

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Description of Incident:

The Victim, Carolina called the Police Department because of arguments between the husband & wife, and two officers arrived at their house. She tried to explain the situation of his abusive behavior and then the officers got his testimony as well; however, Carolina feels that the officers did not pay any real attention to her because they started to laugh and joke with her husband. The victim feels that, even though her husband was drinking and was abusing her, the officers did not really give her the attention she needed
ANALISYS OF FINDINGS


  1. The cases collected during the 2004 Human Rights Documentation Campaign showed a disturbing pattern of local police officers and county sheriffs acting as immigration agents. In 12 cases (32% of all police and sheriff complains) border residents were detained by police officers or sheriffs and then asked to show immigration documentation. This supposed to be the work of federal immigration agents, not of local police officers. But beyond the legality of such practices, these are leading to greater problem of public safety and security. Border residents now could be fearful of contacting the police department or the sheriff office to report crimes or emergency situations since now the know that police agents could ask them for their legal status.



  1. It is also important to say that in this year (2004) the amount incidents reported where the Border Patrol and other immigration agencies were involved substantially decreased in comparison to the last four years. Such incidents represented only a 20% of the total of cases reported, while the cases involving police and sheriff represented a strong 43% of the total.




  1. In both the El Paso and Southern New Mexico there is strong evidence that racial profiling is used as the initial motivation for law enforcement officers to approach individuals living in border communities. While driving, shopping, or walking on the street, Latinos were stopped for questionable reasons and asked to show their immigration papers.




  1. Human rights abuses along the El Paso/Southern New Mexico border region are not simply legal problems that can be resolved through litigation; rather abuses are social problems that create a climate of fear and intimidation in the daily life of border residents. In addition, some of the actions of law enforcement agents place the health and safety of border residents at risk.




  1. In the case of killing of the young Mexican immigrant Juan Patricio Peraza the local community still claims for justice.



RECOMMENDATIONS
On Abuse of Authority
Local

  1. The City Council of El Paso and the authorities of El Paso County need to clarify the role and jurisdiction of its local police and sheriff as to immigration enforcement




  1. We respectfully ask the City Council and the Mayor Office to consider the creation of a Human Rights and Civilian Oversight Commission to observe local and federal agencies as to their actions




  1. We recommend Federal and Local agencies to train and certify their agents on Constitutional and Human Rights.

State


  1. There is a need of Public Hearings in the Texas and New Mexico Legislature regarding the current border enforcement and their impacts on Human and Civil Rights.




  1. The Texas Legislature needs to consider making driver license accessible for everyone that drive in Texas road. This is a public safety issue.

National


  1. The US Congress have to respond to President’s Bush call by discussing and approving an Immigration Reform that guarantees community security and permanent residency to hard working immigrant families, including a human an constitutional border enforcement.




  1. The US Congress needs to create a Human Rights Commission to oversee and ensure the respect of the Constitution and Human Rights from the Federal Agencies and to facilitate the process of complaint




  1. It is of outmost urgency to start a process of de-linking immigration policies from those focus on terrorism and crime.

On Domestic Violence


Local

  1. More collaboration among Police and Domestic Violence agencies when called to a D.V. home in order for the agencies to provide at the moment services to the victim and show sensibility to the victim




  1. Train the police agents on issues such as: VAWA, U-VISA and Victim Compensation.




  1. Clarification on the Police role as to the collaboration with Immigration in Domestic Violence cases

On Labor Abuse


Local

  1. To support the creation of an Orientation Center that will provide labor rights information and education as well as skills development in English and other requirements that would eliminate barriers to employment.

  2. To promote bilingual Labor rights information and education by the media and educational institutions.



State and Federal


  1. Ask the state and Federal agencies responsible for labor rights enforcement to reach out to the Spanish speaking


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