Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Revitalize Not Militarize Campaign

SOUTHERN BORDER REGION: The next few weeks promise to be critical for immigration reform.  Last week, President Barack Obama encouraged Congress to get to work on immigration reform.
In this renewed energy to push for an overhaul of our unjust immigration system, the Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC), which brings together 60 organizations in the 4 southern border states, will launch the Revitalize Not Militarize Campaign to ensure that border communities are included in the debate over immigration reform.
“The border is more than a line, it is the home of 15 million people, it is a cornerstone of the U.S. economy, and it is a unique cultural and historical space that is sacred to many who live here. The border enforcement bills that have been proposed as part of immigration reform would result in nothing more than a militarization of our communities, and is not what we need or want” states Pedro Ríos, Director of the American Friends Service Committee’s San Diego office which is a member organization of the SBCC.
“Through this campaign, border residents will tell the nation what it means to live in the border region, how militarization has negatively impacted families and residents here, and why we must broaden our perspective about the border,” states Elizabeth Maldonado Robinson who speaks for the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice which is also a member of the SBCC.
As part of this campaign, two projects will be launched along the southern border simultaneously.
Project 1: The Border Quilt
Inspired by the AIDS Quilt, the Border Quilt will express how militarization has resulted in losses for border residents. On 2’ x 4’ cloth panels, border residents will tell stories of lives lost, loss of civil rights, loss of security and loss of humanity. Cloth panels will be created across the four southern border states and will be sent to Washington D.C. to be installed during the third week of November. A manual has been created for all who want to participate which can be downloaded here.  and a sample panel will be on display at the press conference.
On Friday, November 1st, Alliance San Diego will host the community and provide space and materials for producing quilts from 4-7 pm.
Project 2: Flower Power Social Media Project
Border residents are being asked to use an orange Gerbera daisy as a symbol of revitalization to contrast with examples of border militarization in their communities. The objective is to take a picture either holding the daisy or placing the daisy near an example of militarization such as Border Patrol vehicles, agents, checkpoints, signs or whichever form it is manifested in their communities.
Participants will be asked to send the photo to  info@revitalizenotmilitarize.org and to mention details about where the photo was taken so that the extent of militarization can be documented on a webpage. A manual is also available for more details and can be downloaded here. Two large Flower Power images will be unveiled at the press conference, including one with a border agent who has participated in this action.
The progress of these two projects will be documented and shared through the campaign website Revitalize not militarize.org and the campaign’s social networks:
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The Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC), is made up of the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium (CA), Border Action Network (AZ), Arizona Sonora Border Coalition (AZ), Taskforce for Immigrant Advocacy & Services (NM), and Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network (TX).

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Calling Out Those Who Abuse Their Authority

ACLU of Texas Sues Feds for Excessive Use of Force and False Arrest at Border

Oct 21, 2013
ACLU Suit Targets Border Patrol’s Excessive Force, Already Recognized as Problem by Recent Dept. of Homeland Security Report

CONTACT: Tom Hargis, Director of Communications, 713.942.8146 x103 or 832.291.4776; media@aclutx.org

Brownsville, TX – In a lawsuit filed today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas charges that  an agent of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) used unwarranted force and physically abused a U.S. citizen when she questioned his search of her purse.

Laura Mireles, who is disabled,  suffered physical injuries after abusive, aggressive, and unjustified treatment by a CBP agent. She sustained injuries after being forcibly thrown to the ground by a CBP agent who responded violently when she inquired about his search of her purse. She was handcuffed so tightly that the fire department later was summoned to cut the cuffs from her wrists.

Today’s suit, brought in federal court against the United States and the individual agent, comes a month after the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report on Border Patrol use of force, which identified key problems with CBP training. The CBP is an arm of DHS. An audit conducted of CBP training in 2012 found that many agents and officers do not understand legal limits on the use of force or the extent to which they may or may not use force. The OIG review was conducted in response to a sharp increase in fatalities caused by Border Patrol agents along the Southwest border since 2010.

“This type of physical abuse of a law-abiding person by a CBP agent is totally unwarranted and, unfortunately, all too common,” said Adriana Piñon, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Texas. “The recent OIG report should be a wake-up call to Border Patrol, which must be accountable for officers involved in use-of-force incidents that lead to serious injury or death. Cases like Laura’s deteriorate our border communities and erode public trust, making us all less safe.”

While going about her routine work day, Ms. Mireles was stopped by a CBP agent, who demanded to search her car. She did not interfere with the search in any way. No illegal items were found. Yet, when Ms. Mireles simply inquired about the search of her handbag, the CBP agent became agitated and responded violently.

Ms. Mireles is small in stature, approximately 5’1” tall and 100 pounds, and has a visible malformation of her hands and feet. The CBP agent (approximately 200+lbs) threw her to the ground and put his full weight on her small frame. Confused, scared, and crying, she asked the agent to explain what was happening. He responded by threatening to hit her if she didn’t shut up.
Earlier this year, the ACLU of Texas filed a formal administrative complaint with CBP on behalf of Ms. Mireles, seeking damages on her behalf and alleging unlawful CBP conduct for the same incident.  This complaint was denied without explanation, paving the way for this lawsuit.

Ms. Mireles is represented by attorneys with the ACLU of Texas, the Law Office of Gilberto Hinojosa & Associates, P.C., and the University of Texas School of Law Civil Rights Clinic.