This afternoon I walked out of the El Paso terminal and into a wall of heat. I scanned the road for the hotel shuttle, and instead found a familiar face. Rebecca Headen, fellow Mainer and current staff attorney for the ACLU of North Carolina Racial Justice Project, waved from across the street. It was good to see a familiar face in a place so far from home – I’m closer to Juarez, Mexico right now than Portland is to Falmouth.
Rebecca and I are both in El Paso for a convening of advocacy groups to discuss border crossing issues with the Rights Working Group and the Border Network for Human Rights. At the ACLU of North Carolina, Rebecca is organizing Know Your Rights training sessions for immigrants that live in 287g towns. 287g towns have entered an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security to train local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law. The ACLU-NC recently published a study detailing the ineffectiveness of the 287g program. Currently no towns in Maine have a 287g Memorandum of Agreement with DHS, though that doesn’t mean a town in Maine won’t eventually. I’m excited to learn more about the programs and how various communities prevent them from coming to their towns, and publicly educate affected communities about their rights when a town has entered into a 287g agreement. While in El Paso, I will also share what I learned about Maine’s border last week, and how we have worked with immigrant communities on policy and public education.
I’m sure I will have quite an update after my tour with Border Patrol tomorrow.