Civil rights advocates looking for victims of police abuse in immigrant communities

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Border Network for Human Rights kicks off annual abuse documentation campaign in El Paso

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EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – El Paso activists plan to visit neighborhoods and immigrant gathering places beginning Saturday, looking for evidence of police harassment or misconduct.

The Border Network for Human Rights’ annual human and civil rights abuse documentation campaign will run through Nov. 9, said Fernando Garcia, the group’s executive director.

“All federal and state agencies you can imagine are present here on the border,” Garcia said. “In the past, their interaction with our communities, with our border and immigrant families has led to a series of civil and human rights abuses. We want to know what is going on now, what is the state of our community’s relationship with police agencies.”

Volunteers will be canvassing traditional migrant enclaves in East El Paso County such as Montana Vista and the Sparks subdivision. They also will have a presence in Upper Valley communities such as Canutillo and Anthony and in rural Southern New Mexico at Vado, Mesquite and Berino. Complaints can be filed electronically at bnhr.org.

The group plans to set up tables Saturday inside grocery stores, meat markets, flea markets and apartment complexes in those areas.

The volunteers plan to approach people near the Paso del Norte, Stanton Street and Zaragoza international bridges. The organization says a lot of previous complaints have originated at U.S. ports of entry.

“We will be educating people about their constitutional rights and also documenting abuse,” Garcia said. “Have the police gone into your house without a court order? Have they searched your car or your person without permission? Have they racially profiled you?”

In 2019, the Border Network for Human Rights recorded numerous instances of abuse and neglect at overcrowded detention centers, “verbal and psychological” “abuse at ports of entry and aggressive enforcement activities in some communities.

Today, some of the concern centers around the use of force from federal agents trying to contain migrants coming across the border in numbers not seen in more than 20 years.

“We saw what happened in Del Rio (Texas) recently, where Border Patrol agents on horseback corralled migrants … That was extreme physical and psychological abuse,” Garcia opined.

The group will take down complaints and present a public report on Dec. 10, redacting names to protect victims, said Betty Camargo, the organization’s policy director.

“This report will have numbers and identify patterns. It will include testimonials and, most of all, a series of recommendations. It’s important to share (the findings) with our elected officials, statewide groups and our representatives in Congress,” Camargo said.

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