A project of the Center for Community Change

Secure Communities

The Growing Human Rights Crisis on the Northern Border

For three years, OneAmerica community organizers had been hearing about the fear and mistrust border residents harbored toward U.S. Border Patrol. Residents living in Snohomish, Whatcom, and Skagit counties were too afraid to go to the courthouse to pay a fine, too mistrustful of the authorities to call 911, or too fearful to leave their home to attend church or go to the grocery store.

How could they become active participants in their communities if they were too scared to leave home?

Organizers interviewed residents in their homes, at work, and in church. We researched and observed how U.S. Border Patrol’s funding soared, its jurisdiction crept further and further inland, and how its role in the community became virtually indistinguishable from local police and 911 emergency service personnel.

Download the Executive Summary (2MB pdf)Download the Executive Summary

 

Download the full report (5MB pdf) Download the full report

OneAmerica compiled this research into a report and, in April 2012, released The Growing Human Rights Crisis on the Northern Border, which truly demonstrates the transformation of these border communities in the wake of the post-9/11 buildup of U.S. Border Patrol activity in the area.

The report shares the findings from 109 on-the-ground interviews with mothers, fathers, workers, and students. The majority of stories are marked by fear, mistrust, harassment, and abuse. They are rooted in specific—and avoidable—patterns of practice implemented by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), working in close coordination with Immigration and Customs and Enforcement and local law enforcement agencies.

In particular, Growing Human Rights Crisis calls attention to three interrelated patterns of practice:

  • First, in its own independent operations, the Border Patrol engages in systematic profiling of religious and ethnic minorities.
  • Second, collaboration between Border Patrol and other agencies, including local law enforcement, emergency responders, and the courts, results in a confusing and dangerous fusion where vital services are perceived as immigration enforcement.
  • Third, these first two patterns result in a third: U.S. Border Patrol’s behavior and dangerous partnerships with other agencies have created extensive fear and mistrust, leading to community members’ unwillingness to call 911, access the courts, and even to leave their house to attend worship services or fulfill basic needs.

We believe firmly that we must not trade away our rights for security. Documenting what is happening allows us to educate our policy makers so we can push together to change the situation. Our report offers policy recommendations aimed at correcting these wrongs while still protecting our borders, improving the ability for CBP to carry out its mission, and protecting the safety and rights of all who live in these communities.

This report is the product of a unique three-way partnership between OneAmerica, theUniversity of Washington Center for Human Rights, and the residents and leaders of these border communities. It culminates the first stage of a long process of organizing, educating, and empowering northern border communities to defend their human rights.

Rep. Lofgren Calls for Investigation of Secure Communities

By Mary Moreno

One of the major reasons deportations have surged under the Obama administration is the expansion of the so-called Secure Communities program. Under Secure Communities, everyone who’s picked up by the police, be it for traffic, minor or major violations, has their fingerprints sent to DHS by the FBI to be checked for legal status. This program has led to the deportations of people who were never charged with a crime or who were accused, but not convicted, of offenses.

DHS used to insist that the program was voluntary. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano even asserted this “fact” to members of Congress. One congressional member to hear this from Napolitano, Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, is calling for an investigation of the program after documents released under a Freedom of Information Act request showed that the program, in fact, is not voluntary, opting out is not an option.

Lofgren told the LA Times:

“It is inescapable that the [Department of Homeland Security] was not honest with the local governments or with me” about whether local jurisdictions must participate, said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose). “You can’t have a government department essentially lying to local government and to members of Congress. This is not OK.”

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