Together Juntos caravan stops at Casa de la Cultura Del Rio News Herald

Megan Tackett
Val Verde County Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez, Del Rio Police Department Chief Fred Knoll, Guatemalan Consul Tekandi Paniagua, Mexican Consul Carlos Obrador and Border Network for Human Rights Founder Fernando Garcia held a forum at the Casa de la Cultura Monday afternoon.
An El Paso-based nonprofit that works to educate undocumented immigrants about their civil rights visited with local officials yesterday, during the organization’s caravan through Texas’ border region.
Border Network for Human Rights organizers stopped at Casa de la Cultura as part of their traveling education program, Together Juntos Caravan, which launched in El Paso on March 30. The organization’s executive director, Fernando Garcia, met with local law enforcement leaders to explain his group’s mission to educate citizens about their rights when questioned about their legal status.“We started the organization as a response to the patterns of civil right violations,” said Garcia, who founded the nonprofit in 1998. “Especially committed by immigration enforcement.”
The organization met with Val Verde County Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez, Del Rio Police Department Chief Fred Knoll, Mexican Consul Carlos Obrador, and Guatemalan Consul Tekandi Paniagua to discuss issues revolving around SB-4 at Casa yesterday afternoon.
The trip’s mission, Garcia said, also aims to protest Senate Bill 4, which bans “sanctuary cities” in Texas. The legislation was upheld by a federal appeals court in March and allows law-enforcement agents to question detained individuals about their legal status. It also requires police chiefs and sheriffs to cooperate with federal immigration officials.
The organization also records and reports instances of alleged misconduct involving law enforcement agencies’ contact with undocumented immigrants.
“Our first goal was to document abuse of authority and develop education,” Garcia said. “It wasn’t enough just to educate communities but to organize them to push back collectively.”
During the presentation, Garcia said speakers encourage participants to practice their right to remain silent when law enforcement questions their legal status and to not allow any law enforcement into their homes unless they have a signed warrant.
“We’re talking about the rights of citizens to be free from abuse,” Garcia said. “It’s a mere accomplishment in a region that more people know how to exercise those rights.”
Garcia said his organization also meets with law enforcement agencies to urge them to alter their best practices to respect the rights of undocumented immigrants.
The caravan will continue onto Eagle Pass, Laredo, El Cenizo, San Benito, McAllen, San Juan, Rio Grande, Brownsville, Falfurrias, Corpus Christi and end in Houston, Garcia said. In the coming months, the caravan’s second leg will continue through the Texas interior through San Antonio and Austin, he said.

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