FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 28, 2013
An Incomplete Border Trip
Rights Groups Urge Senate “Gang of 8” Members to Adopt a Better Border Policy
NOGALES, AZ — Four senators who have pledged to revamp the nation’s immigration laws visited the U.S.-Mexico border this week, prompting a broad coalition of immigrants’ and human rights organizations to urge lawmakers to enact better border policies that restore border residents’ basic rights.
In recent years, the Border Patrol has come under strong criticism by border communities for its lack of transparency in cases involving border agents’ use of excessive and disproportionate force. Since 2010, at least 20 civilians have been killed and several others have been seriously injured. Most cases remain unresolved.
The senatorial delegation arrived in Arizona yesterday, a day after Senator McCain cancelled a town hall meeting with residents who expected to raise concerns over Border Patrol conduct and less than 6 months after the deadly cross-border shooting of 16-year-old José Antonio Elena Rodríguez. The teenage boy was fatally shot by Border Patrol agents while standing on the Mexican side of the border wall, near the area that was visited by the senators.
Local community organizations welcomed the senators’ visit but were disappointed that lawmakers did not take time to meet with border residents to learn about their experiences with harsh border security initiatives.
“Dialogue with border communities is fundamental in the development of commonsense immigration reform,” said Rev. Randy Mayer, Pastor of the Good Shepherd United Church of Christ in Sahuarita, AZ. “Without fully understanding our communities, it will be difficult for the senators to establish a clear balance between national security concerns and the economic and social needs of the nation.”
“Accountability over the Border Patrol is vital to the region,” continued Rev. Mayer, who also is a leading member of the Arizona-Sonora Communities Coalition and the Southern Border Communities Coalition, two of the organizations urging lawmakers to adopt better border policies.
“Instead of only focusing on border security, the senators have the responsibility to assess the full context of the border, including how border communities contribute to the culture and economy of this country,” added Rev. Mayer.
An estimated 6 million people, or one in every 24 jobs, depend on trade with Mexico, for example. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that every minute of delay at the five busiest southern ports costs the U.S. economy $116 million, and the cumulative loss over the next 10 years could be as much as $86 billion.
A broad coalition of immigrant and human rights groups have urged members of the Gang of 8 to ensure that an immigration reform bill includes accountability and oversight mechanisms over U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, to prevent unnecessary deaths and injuries and to encourage more investment in modernizing the congested ports of entry along the southern border.
The coalition includes: Border Network for Human Rights, National Immigration Law Center, Detention Watch Network, Rights Working Group, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, ACLU of New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights, National Guestworker Alliance, National Domestic Workers Alliance, and Southern Border Communities Coalition.
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