EL PASO, Texas — The number of illegal border crossings from Mexico has dropped sharply in recent years, but that hasn’t slowed human-rights violations against border-area residents, according to community advocates marching in El Paso today. Two years ago, 15-year-old Sergio Hernandez Guereca was shot and killed for throwing rocks as border patrol officers were apprehending his friend at the city’s Black Bridge. Protestors are demanding justice for Guereca.
They are also calling for government safeguards against excessive force and abuse, says Cristina Parker, communications director, Border Network for Human Rights, which is calling for an independent commission to monitor the policies and activities of Homeland Security agencies.
“We’re living in a militarized zone where 25 miles from the border the border patrol can basically do anything. And there’s no mechanism in place to account for any of that, or even to see if these policies are even working.”
With the help of hundreds of miles of new walls and fences, military weaponry and cutting-edge technologies, the Obama administration has beefed up immigration enforcement – including a record 1.5 million deportations. Parker says in addition to several needless border killings like Guereca’s, there have been countless unconstitutional searches, detentions and checkpoints.
While the number of border patrol agents has ballooned to an all-time high – around 26,000 – Parker says hiring standards have declined and there’s virtually no follow-up on citizen complaints. What’s missing, she says, is an independent body charged with monitoring all border-enforcement agencies to make sure they adhere to basic human-rights standards.
“A border commission would have investigative power, rule-making authority, and subpoena power over those agencies that could be committing any kinds of abuses: the use of lethal force, psychological or physical abuse, wrongful detention – things like that that we see a lot here on the border.”
A petition circulating at today’s rally calls for the creation of a “Border Enforcement Accountability and Oversight Commission.” It’s been a component of long-stalled comprehensive immigration reform legislation – which the President pledges to push during the first year of a second term. Parker says he could implement it now by executive order.
The rally starts at 3:30 p.m. at San Jacinto Plaza, El Paso.
The border-commission petition is available online at http://chn.ge/LrqbJ3.