Tag Archives: border patrol

Border Patrol erecting 18-foot fence in unwalled New Mexico area

Amid a debate over erecting a new border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, the U.S. Border Patrol says it is finishing an 18-foot-tall steel fence in the last stretch of unwalled, urban borderline in New Mexico.

Officials say the new fencing will run a mile from the bottom of a mesa to the base of tourist attraction of Mount Cristo Rey, the Albuquerque Journal reports.

Currently, a run-down, 10-foot-high chain-link fence sits in the area and border patrol agents say it can be easily climbed and offers little protection in the city of Sunland Park.

The city sits just west of El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico,

The new fence will be made of rust-colored steel columns and is part of an $11 million project authorized by the Bush administration under the Secure Fence Act of 2006.

It will supplant the chain-link fencing erected in the 1980s.

The new barrier will be reinforced 5 feet underground with steel panels to prevent smugglers from building underground tunnels.

“It’s a fence that is replacing another fence,” said Border Patrol spokesman Ramiro Cordero. “It doesn’t hold anymore.”

Construction is expected to finish early in 2017.

But the new project is drawing scrutiny from some immigrant rights advocates.

Activists hold rallies here and reunions where undocumented Mexicans in the U.S. can meet.

For example, on Mexico’s Day of the Dead, Nov. 2, advocates hold a binational Mass to honor the migrants who have died trying to cross into the U.S. through the arid desert.

“In our opinion, the fencing has not necessarily been a good deterrence for immigration,” said Fernando Garcia, executive director of the El Paso-based immigrant advocacy group Border Network for Human Rights. “But it does represent a symbolic response, a very aggressive response, to immigrants and the border community.”

A Cronkite News-Univision News-Dallas Morning News border poll released last month found a majority of residents surveyed on both sides of the border are against the building of a wall between the two countries and believe the campaign’s tone is damaging relations.

According to the poll, 86 percent of border residents in Mexico and 72 percent of those questioned in the U.S. were against building a wall.

The poll surveyed 1,427 residents in 14 border sister cities to assess attitudes and opinions on the local economy, immigration and border security.

The issue of the border wall has garnered national attention since GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has vowed to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The U.S.-Mexico border is already lined with intermittent miles of barriers.

In some places, a tall fence ascends desert hills.

In others, sturdy wire mesh or metal pillars end suddenly.

Complaint alleges abuse of immigrant children by U.S. Customs

A complaint filed this week alleges widespread abuse of unaccompanied immigrant children at the hands of U.S. border officials. Human rights and civil rights groups say more than 100 children reported experiencing abuse and mistreatment while in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the border enforcement agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“Border Patrol agents are committing appalling abuses of children all along the border,” alleged Ashley Huebner, managing attorney of the Immigrant Children’s Protection Project at the National Immigrant Justice Center. “Even worse, Border Patrol has been committing these abuses for years, and our organizations have notified the agency numerous times, yet nothing has changed. The recent increase in arrivals of young people at the border makes it especially urgent that CBP ensure all children in their custody are treated safely and humanely.”

“Border agents operate in a zone of impunity,” James Lyall of the ACLU Border Litigation Project said in a news release. “Given CBP’s recent promise to be more accountable and transparent, we call on the agency to finally address these systemic abuses in a serious and meaningful way.”

The administrative complaint with DHS — the department’s only mechanism for seeking redress — was filed by the National Immigrant Justice Center, the ACLU Border Litigation Project, Americans for Immigrant Justice, Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project and the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project.

Children detained by CBP across the country have reported verbal, sexual and physical abuse; prolonged detention in squalid conditions; and a severe lack of essential necessities such as beds, food and water.

The complaint describes Border Patrol agents denying necessary medical care to children as young as 5-months-old, refusing to provide diapers for infants, confiscating and not returning legal documents and personal belongings, making racially-charged insults and death threats, and strip searching and shackling children in three-point restraints during transport.

Reports of such abuse have been documented and reported for years, but no reforms have been implemented, nor have any actions been taken to hold agents accountable.

Children referenced in the complaint, many of whom fled violence and persecution in their home countries, include:

• H.R., a 7-year-old boy, was severely developmentally disabled and suffering from acute malnourishment when he was apprehended, but CBP held him in custody for approximately five days without any medical treatment. He was eventually hospitalized and underwent emergency surgery.

• D.G., a 16-year-old girl, was detained with adults. When CBP officials searched D.G., they violently spread her legs and touched her genital area forcefully, making her scream.

• M.R., a 15-year-old girl, traveled from Guatemala with her 2-year-old son. Both M.R. and her son became sick while in CBP custody, but M.R.’s requests for medical attention were ignored or dismissed for approximately five days, until she and her son were finally taken to a hospital.

• K.A., a 14-year-old girl, had her asthma medication confiscated by CBP officials and proceeded to suffer multiple asthma attacks in the filthy and overcrowded CBP holding cells. After the first asthma attack, officials threatened that they would punish her if she were faking.

• C.S., a 17-year-old girl, was detained in a freezer in wet clothes. Her clothes did not dry for three and a half days due to the frigid temperature in the holding cell. The only drinking water available to C.S. came from the toilet tank, and the bathroom was situated in plain view of all other detainees with a security camera mounted in front of it.

“We have instances where CBP shackled 13- and 14-year-olds, infants became sick while held in cells maintained at freezing temperatures, and many children were held in CBP custody beyond the legal 72-hour period, without food or blankets,” said Erika Pinheiro, directing attorney for community education programs at Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project.

The complaint’s recommendations include:

• Enhanced CBP oversight, including creation of an independent oversight body;

• Binding and enforceable short-term detention standards;

• Creation of a uniform complaint process at DHS that includes confidential, expedited processes by which children can safely report abuse and receive timely recourse;

• Adequate training for all officers who may encounter unaccompanied immigrant children;

• Timely investigation into the complaints of abuse;

• Accountability for any agent who violates the law and/or agency guidelines;

• Publication of the results of any investigations.

The complaint was filed with the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties as well as the DHS Office of Inspector General.

Officials: Immigrants assaulted by border patrol agent were surrendering

An immigrant woman, her daughter and another girl who said they were kidnapped and assaulted by a border patrol agent were in the process of surrendering to the agent when their ordeal began, according to officials.

Agent Esteban Manzanares, who officials say committed suicide last week, is accused of driving the three away from the river after they surrendered and assaulting them. The other agent said Manzanares cut the wrists of the adult woman, assaulted one teenager in the group, and then fled the area with a second teenage girl.

The Honduran embassy in Washington, D.C., said the three are a mother, her underage daughter and another girl not related to them. The FBI has said the three were in the U.S. illegally.

The woman who had escaped the attack and walked upriver tripped a camera at the border fence shortly after 5 p.m. last Wednesday, according to federal officials.

They said in the camera image a woman can be seen walking toward a gap in the fence. The border agent said there was blood covering her wrists. Within 10 minutes of the camera image being taken, agents responded to the woman and began a search for the others.

One federal law enforcement official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to talk about the case because the FBI was leading the investigation. Another border agent spoke on condition of anonymity because the agent was not allowed to speak to the media because of the ongoing investigation.

Customs and Border Protection, the federal agency of which the Border Patrol is part, has said that when it found the woman she told them she had been attacked by a man. The federal official said the woman described the man as wearing green fatigues. Border Patrol agents wear green uniforms. She also described a vehicle that the federal official said authorities believed to be a Border Patrol vehicle.

The official and the agent said a search was quickly launched in the area for the other two victims. One of the teenagers was found near the border in the brush, and hours later the second girl was located in Manzanares’ home in Mission, the federal official and the agent said. Mission is a suburb of McAllen, close to the Texas-Mexico border about 350 miles from Houston.

When authorities approached the agent’s apartment, they heard gunfire. A short time later, when investigators went into the apartment, they found him dead and rescued the other girl.

A CBP official told The Associated Press that the agent was on duty when he encountered the females and that his shift had ended by the time authorities showed up at his house and he shot himself. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because it is an ongoing investigation by the FBI.

Karol Escalante, a spokeswoman for the Honduran embassy in Washington, D.C., said the three Hondurans are recovering at a hospital in McAllen. She would not elaborate on their injuries.

R. Gil Kerlikowske, Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said in a statement that such acts are not representative of Border Patrol agents. He added that the agency is working to make sure the victims receive proper care.

“I am deeply sorry that this incident occurred and am committed to doing everything in my power to prevent incidents like this from occurring again,” he said.

The Border Patrol agent who participated in the search said Manzanares was assigned to Anzalduas Park. The FBI said it is awaiting an autopsy report on Manzanares, who the Border Patrol said had been with the agency since 2008.

In a statement in Spanish, the Honduran foreign ministry condemned the assaults and kidnapping and asked the U.S. government for a thorough investigation, for psychological and medical assistance for the victims, for financial compensation and for legal immigration status for the victims.

“Lastly, the government of Honduras calls on the U.S. government to protect the human rights of immigrants, whatever their migratory status might be because all countries – their authorities in particular – are obligated to respect the dignity of human beings,” the statement concludes.

The number of apprehensions by the Border Patrol – a figure commonly used to gauge the ebb and flow of illegal border crossers – rose by 16 percent last year to 420,789 people detained. More than half of those arrests were made in Texas.

Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher said last October that much of the increase was due to a rise in the number of people from Central America trying to enter the U.S. in South Texas.

While apprehensions of Mexican nationals remained fairly steady, arrests of immigrants from other countries, including Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, rose 55 percent. Limited economic opportunities and widespread gang and drug cartel violence in Central America have driven tens of thousands north along a dangerous route through Mexico.

Feds spent $18 billion on immigration enforcement

The Obama administration spent more money on immigration enforcement in the last fiscal year than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined, according to a report on the government’s enforcement efforts from a Washington think tank.

The report on Monday from the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan group focused on global immigration issues, said in the 2012 budget year that ended in September the government spent about $18 billion on immigration enforcement programs run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the US-Visit program, and Customs and Border Protection, which includes the Border Patrol. Immigration enforcement topped the combined budgets of the FBI; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Secret Service by about $3.6 billion dollars, the report’s authors said.

Since then-President Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986 – which legalized more than 3 million immigrants and overhauled immigration laws – the government has spent more than $187 billion on immigration enforcement. According to the report, “Immigration Enforcement in the United States: The Rise of a Formidable Machinery,” federal immigration-related criminal prosecutions also outnumber cases generated by the Justice Department.

The 182-page report concludes that the Obama administration has made immigration its highest law enforcement priority.

“Today, immigration enforcement can be seen as the federal government’s highest criminal law enforcement priority, judged on the basis of budget allocations, enforcement actions and case volumes,” MPI Senior Fellow Doris Meissner, a co-author of the report, said in a statement released with the report Monday.

The report by MPI’s Meissner, Muzaffar Chishti, Donald Kerwin and Clair Bergeron, comes amid renewed interest in immigration reform from Congress and the White House.

In the immediate aftermath of the November election, congressional Republicans suggested the time was right to begin reform talks anew. President Barack Obama, who won a record share of Hispanic voters, renewed a previous pledge to make immigration reform a priority.

In the lead up to the election, Obama made several administrative changes to the immigration system, including launching a program to allow some young undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation and work legally in the country for up to two years. His administration also refocused enforcement efforts to target criminal immigrants and those who posed a security threat. And just last week, the administration announced a rule change to allow some immigrant spouses and children of U.S. citizens to stay in the country while they ask the government to waive 3- or 10-year bans on returning to the United States. Immigrants who win the waiver will still need to leave the country to complete visa paperwork, but will be able to leave without fear of being barred from returning to their families for up to a decade. The rule, first proposed last year, goes into effect in March.

Republican lawmakers have widely criticized the policy changes, routinely describing them as “backdoor amnesty.” Many of those same lawmakers have said the border needs to be secured before reform can be taken up.

According to the MPI report and Border Patrol statistics, in 2011 agents arrested about 327,000 people at the southern border, the fewest in nearly 40 years. The Homeland Security Department also removed a record 396,906 immigrants that year. In 2012, nearly 410,000 people were removed from the United States.

Outed Ariz. sheriff’s armed posse excluded from insurance pool

An insurance pool that covers sheriff’s volunteers in 11 of Arizona’s 15 counties is changing its policies to exclude an armed volunteer posse that the state’s second most famous sheriff plans to deploy to scan the desert for smugglers.

Following legal warnings from alarmed underwriters, the Arizona Counties Insurance Pool decided not to provide liability coverage for the posse that Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu announced earlier this month because it’s too risky, said Bill Hardy, the pool’s executive director.

“There is not a county that has a posse like Sheriff Babeu’s proposed Anti-Smuggling Posse,” Hardy told the Arizona Republic (http://bit.ly/TmLdZ8 ). “Normal posse activities include neighborhood-watch patrols, welfare checks _ in other words, an extra set of eyes in the neighborhood. Additionally, they provide traffic control at accident and crime sites.”

Hardy said the insurance pool has never had a problem with those types of posses.

“However, we do not think it’s good risk management to put a group of gentlemen with weapons out in the desert at night, becoming involved in human- and drug-smuggling enforcement efforts,” he said.

Babeu announced the formation of the Anti-Smuggling Posse on Oct. 10 to help in western areas of the vast county – between Phoenix and Tucson – where drug- and human smuggling is a persistent problem. The posse is separate from his department’s other posses, whose members assist patrol deputies and participate in search-and-rescue operations.

Members of the all-volunteer posse will be issued semi-automatic rifles but will not patrol or make arrests. Their main focus is surveillance and intelligence gathering at the direction of a multijurisdictional SWAT team led by the Sheriff’s Office. The size of the posse has not been disclosed, but it will recruit former military members and people with law-enforcement backgrounds.

It’s unclear if any members have been chosen. The sheriff’s office wouldn’t clarify the new posse’s function or outline its activities to date.

Arizona law gives elected sheriffs the ability to request the aid of volunteer posse and reserve organizations. A sheriff also may authorize members of the sheriff’s volunteer posse to carry firearms if they have received firearms training approved by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board.

Tim Gaffney, Babeu’s spokesman, said the insurance pool had agreed to cover the posse once it learned a deputy would be along with its members on assignment.

But Hardy disagreed. “They may see it a different way. I’m standing by what I said in the paper.”

The Arizona Counties Insurance Pool policy insures volunteers assisting in government business, including those engaged in law-enforcement activities. The cooperative is governed by a board of trustees composed of representatives from each member county. It does not include Maricopa, Pima, Yuma and Coconino counties, which are self-insured.

Maricopa County has a similar insurance policy. Cari Gerchick, county communications director, said she doubted that liability coverage would ever be restricted for the Maricopa County sheriff’s posse.

“Frankly, you’ve got a statute that authorizes them to act as long as they have a sheriff’s officer with them or are under their supervision,” Gerchick said. “I don’t see us meddling in what is appropriate law enforcement, but different counties operate differently.”

Babeu, a Republican seeking re-election, is known for his hard-line stance against immigration and border security. He announced he was running for Congress in January but withdrew from the race months later after he was forced to come out as gay amid allegations of misconduct made by a man with whom he previously had a relationship. Babeu has denied the man’s allegations.

The conservative sheriff most recently made headlines after critics claimed he was too quick to blame drug smugglers for the deaths of five people found in a burned-out SUV in June, after evidence surfaced suggesting another theory. The conservative sheriff maintained he was merely sharing timely information about the case and never formally concluded the deaths were the work of a cartel.