Dia de los Muertos is a holiday to remember and honor the dead. But for border residents, the day has a unique and tragic meaning.
The outdated and broken U.S. system leaves the vast majority of immigrants without legal means to enter. This pushes them into the deserts and into the hands of criminal smugglers. By some estimates, more than 500 people die every year in the desert trying to cross into the U.S.
As this systemic violence claims lives, border residents also live with near-daily reports of excessive force used by law enforcement on migrants, workers and people living on the border.
The ACLU reports that since January of 2010, 20 individuals have either died or been seriously injured by CBP officials, including eight cases where agents responded to rocks being thrown across the border and six cases involving individuals killed while standing on the Mexican side of the border.
Just days ago in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas DPS agents in a helicopter opened fire on a truck near the border, killing two unarmed migrants.
“The misguided immigration and enforcement policies in the U.S. often violate basic legal and human rights,” said Fernando Garcia, BNHR Executive Director. “The use of excessive force against unarmed individuals is common place and yet no one has ever been held accountable for these deaths.”
An example of these misguided policies is the fact that the Border Patrol is charged with enforcing civil law, but operates as a paramilitary force.
“The problem with this is that in a military structure, agents are accountable only to their superiors,” Garcia said. “Supposedly, the Border Patrol should be accountable to civilian government, to the people. But we all know that they aren’t. This is why we have been calling for measures to make border enforcement operations accountable to society and to Congress. It’s important to have oversight of the largest domestic law enforcement agency in the U.S.”
The fact is that militarization and weaponization of the border have not made the U.S. safer. Instead, it has only succeeded in making the border more dangerous for the most vulnerable — migrant workers and families looking for a better life in the U.S.
The Border Network calls on President Obama and Congress to create an independent commission to oversee border enforcement and hold agencies accountable for rights violations.