Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Derechos Humanos, Pan Left Productions and Migra-Copwatch launched new patrols today, Sept. 2, 2010, to document abuse by police and Border Patrol. Listen to the press conference for the launch of Yo Soy Testigo, I am a Witness in Tucson. To report abuse, and call for witnesses with video cameras, there's a 24 hour hotline: 520-261-5890.
Photo Press conference by Brenda Norrell.
Border watch patrols launch to document abuse by US Border Patrol agents and police
Article and photo by Brenda Norrell
TUCSON – With racism intensifying along the US/Mexico border, new border watch patrols were launched today to document abuses by US Border Patrol agents and local police.
“Yo Soy Testigo, I am a Witness,” was launched by Derechos Humanos, Pan Left Productions and Migra Patrol-Copwatch. Volunteers are staffing a 24-hour hotline in response to the increased racial profiling, violations of law and deportations.
Kat Rodriguez of Derechos Humanos said the Border Patrol is manning checkpoints in the community, although the agency denies it. Rodriguez said there are already videos to prove it.
The human rights abuses include children being left by the side of the road as their parents are deported and legal residents harassed by police and Border Patrol.
Rodriguez said the passage of SB 1070 has “emboldened and empowered” police and Border Patrol agents to harass and intimidate people.
During today's press conference to launch the patrols, Tucson community members said the oppression has resulted in residents leaving Arizona for other states and Mexico, with the economy suffering. In the schools, children are suffering from fear and depression as family members and relatives are harassed and deported.
Jason Aragon, Pan Left Productions, said migra (border) patrols have been underway for 12 years to document the human rights abuses. Pan Left works with community members to document and tell their own stories using technology such as video cameras.
“We must shed the light on the fact that people have been living in fear of deportation and it is only getting worse,” Aragon said. “We are committed to resisting these injustices and invite the community to be part of this campaign to document the oppression of our families and neighborhoods.”
Aragon said the Tucson Police Department and US Border Patrol are working together closely, although officials deny this. Already video footage shows Tucson police turning over a father and mother to Border Patrol as their children cry in the night.
Among the women speaking out on behalf of families and community members was Pati Moreno of Derechos Humanos. “We will expose this discrimination and racism, and move our communities toward peace.”
Isabel Garcia of Derechos Humanos, speaking in Spanish and English, said not all Tucson police support racial profiling. Garcia encouraged police to speak out and help halt the abuse.
Encouraging community members to become involved in the struggle for justice, Rodriguez said, “We are in the community and we are part of this community."
With the passage of SB 1070, and the proliferation of hate groups along the border, racial profiling is impacting all people of color.
Native Americans who live on their ancestral lands from California to Texas are targeted. This includes the Kumeyaay, Cocopah, Tohono O'odham, O'otham, Yavapai, Apache, Yaqui, Ysleta del Sur, Lipan Apache and others whose members live on both sides of the border.
With the increased militarization by the US Border Patrol, the National Guard and local law enforcement agencies, Indigenous Peoples are constantly harassed, physically abused and denied their rights because of racial profiling, violations of law and excessive force.
Jose Matus, Yaqui, director of the Indigenous Alliance without Borders, issued a statement of support for the new campaign.
Matus praised the campaign to bring together community members and community organizations "to track, document and seek justice and fight against human rights violations, racial profiling, law enforcement abuses committed against Indigenous Peoples and all people of color of the Tucson and Arizona communities."
"The Alianza Indigena denounces the abuses and injustices we experience and witness every day in our lives. We need to document what happens in our communities to help us protect our rights, stand up for social justice and fight to change the hostile political climate toward people of color and immigrant communities. Instances of abuse and exploitation have become increasingly normalized and endured.
"The climate of fear and racism created by punitive anti-immigrant policies that further criminalizes immigrants and people of color, seek to silence our voices and coerce us into accepting the violations of our human rights as normal. Simultaneously, it has normalized a continuation of a mainstream American consciousness embedded in hatred, racism, and xenophobia toward individuals, neighbors, and community residents with brown-colored skin," Matus said.
Matus said the Alianza joins with others in the campaign in the fight against institutional racism, the hostile political climate and bad laws that profoundly affect all people of color.
The Alliance confirmed its solidarity with those in the struggle to counter xenophobia, racism, law enforcement abuse of authority and violations of the rights of Indigenous Peoples, the poor, and all people of color.
The 24-hour hotline in Tucson is: 520-261-5890.
Listen to today’s press conference (30 minutes)