LatinaLista — While everyone agrees that the job of a border patrol agent along the U.S.-Mexico border is a thankless, dangerous job, there are a few agents who obviously feel that the no-man’s land where they’re stationed gives them license to abuse their positions.
Thanks to some great detective work by Jacqueline Stevens, University of California associate law professor and blogger/publisher of States Without Nations , comes the revelation of a disturbing pattern of abuse by Arizona border patrol agents against young Mexican-American boys.
It seems that in several different cases (the ones we know about), two of which were written up in great detail by Stevens, that Mexican-American teenagers trying to cross back into the United States from Mexico (one went to go drink in Mexico, the other had been living there and was returning to live in the U.S.) were stopped and questioned by the border patrol.
When both boys, Mario and Ricardo, presented their birth certificates, the border patrol 1) Declared that they didn’t believe either boy and 2) in each instance, ripped up their birth certificates in front of them.
With no other way to prove their U.S. citizenship, the boys could do nothing to defend themselves when the border patrol agents declared them removed as Mexican citizens.
Lawyers for both boys pointed out in court that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) â€” the border patrol agents â€” didn’t follow proper legal procedure when the boys claimed they were American citizens.
Instead, the agents ridiculed and harassed both boys to make them say they were from Mexico.
When each boy finally did have their day(s) in court, unfortunately, the immigration judges presiding over each case were no better. As Stevens reports:
In May 2007, Mario decided to take his chances by crossing without inspection and was apprehended by the Nogales Border Patrol. He made a sworn statement that he’s a U.S. citizen and is taken into detention for deportation proceedings, where he can make his case before a judge. Mario, the attorney said, “denied he was a Mexican alien, but they whipped this thing out,” according to the attorney, and said, “You said you were a Mexican. Here’s the proof. You were removed as a Mexican.”
The Immigration Judge says the sworn statement of Mexican citizenship is sufficient to shift the burden onto Mario to prove he really is a U.S. citizen. Mario did that. His file includes Medicaid records of his birth and infant care, a copy of the birth certificate, and the Colorado hospital records (where he was born to an American mother and Mexican father), including the Apgar test (taken one minute and five minutes after birth). The attorney continued, “The judge says, ‘The records don’t show he was born at the hospital. The records only show he was treated at the hospital.” Oh, and Mario had obtained a childhood photo from his uncles in Tucson, from when they visited Mario in Mexico, in which Mario’s about 8 and holding THE SAME BIRTH CERTIFICATE in his file. (The family had the photo enlarged and it’s very clear.)
These cases are just the latest examples of an attitude that prevailed under a Chertoff-run Department of Homeland Security where deporting Mexican-Americans was considered “acceptable losses.” What these border patrol agents fail to recognize is that this is a new day and a new administration that emphasizes accountability and transparency.
That these agents deported U.S. citizens is grounds for legal action for violating their constitutional rights.
If anyone should doubt that some Arizona agents are abusing their power, then you haven’t heard what happened to a non-Mexican-American Arizona resident.
Tempe, Arizona pastor Steven Anderson had his own run-in with the state’s border agents last month. Unlike the boys who felt helpless in thinking that no one would believe them, Anderson was outraged at what happened to him.
He was so outraged that he made a YouTube video recounting the incident. And while Anderson asks incredulously at the end of the video how this could happen in America, those of us in the Latino community who have been reporting on abuses committed by border patrol agents and agents of the Department of Homeland Security for a couple of years now, can finally ask â€” Do you believe us now?