Arizona Group Accuses Border Patrol of Routinely Abusing Illegal Aliens
September 18, 2008 - 6:11 PMNo More Deaths, an Arizona group that advocates amnesty for illegal aliens, alleges that U.S. Border Patrol agents routinely mistreat illegal aliens, a charge disputed by the Border Patrol.
In addition to chronicling alleged abuses of illegal aliens, the report concludes with “Faith Based Principles for Immigration Reform.” The first of these is: “Recognize that the current Militarized Border Enforcement Strategy is an ill-conceived policy.” The second is: “Address the status of undocumented persons currently living in the US.”
“The border blockade strategy has militarized the US-Mexico border, which drives migrants into remote desert regions yet has failed to stem the flow of immigrants into the United States,” the explanation of the first principle states.
“Further, the fragile desert environment has sustained severe damage as a result of migrants moving through remote desert regions and responding enforcement patrols,” it adds.
“Workers and their families currently living in the US must have access to a program of legalization that offers equity-building paths to permanent residency and eventual citizenship for workers and their families,” the explanation of the second principle states.
Maryada Vallet, one of the authors of the report and a volunteer with No More Deaths, alleged that the abuse of illegal aliens by the Border Patrol is systematic.
“It’s day after day of hearing the same stories from busloads of people and realizing this is a systematic thing going on here, systematic abuse,” Vallet said at a press conference on Capitol Hill.
No More Deaths maintains aid stations on the Mexican side of the U.S.-Mexico border for illegal aliens who are returned to the country by Border Patrol agents.
“I want to emphasis that every single day this is going on,” Vallet said. “Every single day … human rights are violated. With every single busload of people, at least a few of them are touched on.
“This isn’t something like just a few rogue agents, it’s very systematic. They are not equipped to give people food or water at these processing centers. There are no medical people available at all,” she added.
Vallet said human rights violations include “failure to respect the basic dignity of migrants as evidenced by the repatriation of migrants without their clothes or shoes. This also includes being denied the right to sleep while in custody and made to hold strenuous painful positions really for no reason whatsoever.”
She said illegal aliens are routinely beaten and some sexually abused while being searched by agents.
These and other allegations are part of a report, “Crossing the Line,” that was distributed at the press conference. Vallet is one of its authors. It contains sworn statements by volunteers who say they have heard about abuse from the illegal immigrants who seek assistance at their stations.
It also contains a list of alleged abuse incidents, which are dated but do not include names. Sally Meisenhelder, a nurse who volunteers with No More Deaths, said agents use “psychological terrorism” to intimidate illegal aliens in their custody, including three men she said were returned to Mexico after being detained for three days.
“When they were apprehended, they did not resist,” Meisenhelder said. “They sat down and the Border Patrol charged (at) them with horses. This is also fairly common. It’s a form of psychological terrorism against these people who are unarmed and already in their control.
“During that time, they were not given any food,” Meisenhelder added. “Well, they were given peanut butter crackers, those orange peanut butter crackers. Anyone who has been in Chiapas knows those look very weird to indigenous people from the mountains of Chiapas. They’re like, what is this?”
A public affairs officer with the Border Patrol told CNSNews.com that the agency has reviewed the report and that all complaints filed about agents are acted on.
“Any reported allegations of misconduct are investigated,” the spokesman said, adding that it is not clear from the report if any of these allegations have been reported. “All Border Patrol Agents are authorized by the U.S. government to enforce immigration laws, but we also are humanitarians. If we come across someone who needs medical care, we’re going to get them medical care.”
He said all agents carry water and that many are trained emergency medical technicians. He also said that while at processing facilities, illegal immigrants can request to speak with the consulate office of their home country and that any possessions that are taken are returned when the individual is returned to that country.
“The U.S. Border Patrol has a tremendous responsibility to protect our homeland and has taken an oath to protect and defend the Constitution, the government and its citizens, and that duty should be carried out at all times with the highest degree of integrity and professionalism.
“Any Border Patrol agent who disregards that oath and chooses to violate the trust of citizens they swore to protect will be held accountable.”
Ira Mehlman, media director for the Federation of American Immigration Reform, a nonprofit organization that advocates for a stop to illegal immigration and secure borders, said that No More Deaths is against enforcing immigration laws and blames law enforcement instead of the people who are breaking the law.
“I’m not comparing illegal aliens to bank robbers, but it’s like saying the bank robber got injured when he was robbing the bank,” Mehlman said, added that his organization hasn’t heard of Border Patrol agents abusing people in their custody.
“If (No More Deaths) had any real evidence, they would be taking this up in court,” Mehlman said. The group’s press conference in the Capitol was sponsored by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who delivered introductory remarks but did not stay to hear the press briefing.
Grijalva said people will continue to enter the United State illegally and that they should be treated humanely.
“I don’t care how many fences you build, from one end of the border to the other, the essential issue and pull that people feel to feed their families and to sustain themselves is ongoing and will continue,” said Grijalva.
“When we look at our policy [we see] that [it] has been primarily focused on enforcement and security and enforcement and security with no balance of what humanitarian issues are out there, what the rule of law issues are out there, what due process issues are out there, and no balance trying to solve this immigration law of ours in a way that lends some respect and dignity to the process and to the people involved,” said Grijalva.
But Andy Silverman, a law professor at the University of Arizona and a volunteer with No More Deaths, said simply securing the U.S. border is the cause of illegal immigrants dying in the desert.
“This story goes back 150 years when the U.S. purchased, some say annexed, the territory that makes up the U.S. Mexican border,” Silverman said. “Mexicans and Americans would go back and forth, freely and easily.
“Even when we began to patrol the border in the early 1900s, Border Patrol agents would look the other way as Mexicans and others from the south would cross the border to the United States to work. We encouraged it, we desired it, and we aided it.
“Safe corridors of travel developed, primarily around the urban areas along the border, San Diego, El Paso, Nogales,” Silverman said. “Then, in 1993, that all changed as the Border Patrol decided to cut off those historical and safer corridors.”