TX News Service – Lawsuit Against Border Patrol Claims Excessive Force, False Arrest

Published October 23, 2013
John Michaelson, Public News Service – TX
Brownsville, TX

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency is facing a new lawsuit over an alleged false arrest and excessive use of force against a U.S. citizen.

The incident happened last November as a pregnant woman with disabilities was confronted by an agent outside her workplace in Brownsville. Adriana Piñon, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Texas, said the woman hadn’t broken any laws and was not interfering.

“And yet, when she asked a few questions of the agent, he reacted violently,” she said, “He threw her to the ground with so much force that her jeans tore and she suffered physical injuries. He put his weight on her and handcuffed her so tightly that the fire department had to be called to get the cuffs off.”

The woman suffered a miscarriage the next day from injuries as a result of the incident, according to her doctor.

Customs and Border Patrol does not comment specifically on pending litigation, but said it does not tolerate misconduct within its ranks and fully cooperates with all investigations.

Piñon said these types of cases are all too common, adding that to reverse that trend, the Border Patrol needs to improve training, transparency and accountability.

“It’s so important that agents understand what the legal limits of the use of force are,” she said, “because incidents such as the one in our complaint deteriorate trust in our community, and our border communities suffer as a result.”

An audit of Border Patrol training conducted by the Inspector General last year found that many agents and officers do not understand the extent to which they may or may not use force.

The complaint is online at aclutx.org. The Inspector General’s report on Border Patrol use of force is at aclu.org.

TX News Service: Poll – Texans Want Immigration Reform, Path to Citizenship

Published June 17, 2013
John Michaelson, Public News Service – TX
Austin, TX

Most Texans believe the country’s immigration reform system needs to be fixed, and a new poll also has found majority support for the U.S. Senate bill crafted by the bipartisan “Gang of Eight.”

Marisa Bono with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) said the plan is a step in the right direction.

“The poll results reflect what we at MALDEF have known all along: Most Texans and most Americans favor immigration reform that focuses not only on enforcement, but also includes pathways for legalization and work authorization for those already here,” Bono said.

In the poll, 67 percent of Texas respondents said they supported the “Gang of Eight” proposal being debated in the Senate, and an even greater percentage supported a path to citizenship.

Letting undocumented workers seek legal status through a rigorous path will have a genuine impact on the Texas economy, Bono added.

“For those immigrants who do not have criminal records, who do not pose threats to our communities or to our society – and who, in fact, contribute economically to our community in positive ways – it makes sense to embrace them, not to turn them away,” she said.

In 2011, the Pew Hispanic Center estimated that more than 1.5 million immigrants living in Texas are not in the U.S. legally and could benefit from the reform legislation.

The full poll results are available at americasvoiceonline.org.

Public News Service: Big Turnout Leads to Big Predictions of Immigration Reform

Published November 8, 2012
Peter Malof, Public News Service – TX
El Paso, TX

As political analysts debate whether this week’s election results will ease the gridlock in Washington, D.C., some are predicting a quick breakthrough on at least one major issue. Immigration reform has been blocked in recent years – primarily by a Republican base that wants to seal the border first. That stance alienated enough Latino voters to help propel Democrats to a national victory this week, according to Adriana Cadena, statewide coordinator of the Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance. She says Hispanic voters will not be satisfied with anything less than comprehensive reforms.

“That means providing venues through which people who are here undocumented can become U.S. citizens. There’s really no other option, and the time is now.”

The debate is already heating up. Some conservative activists say they will continue fighting what they see as amnesty for millions who are in the country illegally, but other Republicans are calling for a reexamination of their party’s relationship to the growing Latino electorate. President Obama, meanwhile, wants reforms enacted soon, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promises to introduce a bill in the coming year.

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NYT Opinion: Migrants’ Freedom Ride

Published July 28, 2012:

On Sunday night or early Monday, about three dozen people are planning to set out on a six-week bus voyage through the dark terrain of American immigration politics. Their journey is to begin, fittingly, in the desert in Arizona, national capital of anti-immigrant laws and oppressive policing. It will wind through other states where laws and failed policies force immigrants to toil outside the law — New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee — and end in North Carolina at the Democratic National Convention.

There the riders plan to deliver a defiant message to a president who is hoping to return to office on a wave of Latino support that they believe he has not earned.

There is something very different about this particular protest. Many of those planning to ride the bus are undocumented and — for the first time — are not afraid to say so. Immigrants who dread arrest and deportation usually seek anonymity. These riders, weary of life in the shadows and frustrated by the lack of progress toward reform, will be telling federal authorities and the local police: Here are our names. This is our plan. If you want us, come get us.

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PNS – Report: Profit Motive May Be Influencing Immigration Policies

On July 26, 2012, the Public New Service reported

AUSTIN, Texas – The for-profit prison sector would have been hit hard by the Great Recession had it not been for expanded federal immigration enforcement. That’s according to a just-released report by The Sentencing Project. States suffering budget shortfalls, like Texas, have trimmed prison populations, reducing the need for new private contracts. But federal agencies have helped take up the slack by increasingly relying on private facilities to hold detainees awaiting hearings, according to Cody Mason, who authored the report.

“A lot of the detention growth is coming from immigrant detainees. There are these huge networks of facilities that they’re being housed in, and they’re not properly being overseen. It’s hard to keep track of where people are being held and what companies are actually holding them.”

He says most new detention centers are for-profit. One such facility opened this year in Karnes City. It’s an example of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s effort to steer fewer detainees into the prison system.

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Link to Sentencing Project Report »