A Tucson-based human rights community organization has released a report that lists human and civil rights violations in the border region.
Zaliah Zalkind, program coordinator for the Border Action Network, explains the results of a report documenting rights violations. (Jonathon Shacat-Herald/Review)
Border Action Network representatives released the results of the report during a press conference Tuesday afternoon in Douglas.
The incidences were committed against 134 people by 103 abusers from various law-enforcement agencies, employers, landlords, government agencies and individuals.
A total of 78 people reported abuse, according to the report. About 39 percent were illegal immigrants, 19 percent were legal permanent residents, 14 percent were U.S. citizens, while the rest had documentation such as work visas, tourist visas or border crossing cards.
“When we look at the people reporting abuses, we see that the majority of the people are in this country legally,” said Zaliah Zalkind, program coordinator with Border Action Network. “We are not seeing abuses only against undocumented people.”
The report documented immigration raids, false accusations of identity theft and Border Patrol physical and verbal abuse. There also were incidents of police and sheriff officials insisting that families be deported.
“In spite of immigration still being a civil matter, criminal law enforcement officers are individually assuming the role of immigration enforcement,” said Jennifer Allen, executive director of Border Action Network.
A total of 116 specific possible violations of domestic and/or international law were documented. About 19 percent were illegal temporary detention, 15 percent were violation of right of due process, and 12 percent were illegal stopping for violation of immigration laws.
But the report also shows that 3 percent of the cases met the legal definition of torture.
The majority of the documented incidences of possible abuse were committed by law enforcement agencies.
The report also contains 30 different recommendations for ways to improve the situation. The recommendations cover topics of border enforcement accountability and oversight, comprehensive border and immigration policy reform, consistency at land ports of entry, local law enforcement and immigration enforcement, and community security and community participation.
Allen said she would like to see local and federal law enforcement officials get ongoing training in constitutional human rights.
“Border Patrol agents get arms training four times a year,” she said. “But the only training they get for constitutional human rights is at the academy. Yet, they use those rights every single day with every interaction with people.”
Contacted Tuesday evening, Carol Capas, spokeswoman for the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office, declined to comment on the report until she has a chance to review it.
Dove Haber, spokeswoman at the Tucson Sector of the Border Patrol, also was contacted for comment Tuesday afternoon. She said she sent a copy of the report to her supervisors and she was waiting for a response.