Have you ever had one of those days that can only be described as “quite a day”?
We started the day at the new offices for the Border Network for Human Rights in El Paso. BNHR is an incredibly well-organized movement from the Latino community in the greater El Paso area. They have a comprehensive response system when police checkpoints are set up, raids occur, or community needs are not being met, etc. Neighborhoods are organized into Committees, which are led by Human Rights Promoters, who coordinate with a BNHR staff person, who reports to an executive committee. We left the offices to visit two Committees in Montana Vista and Agua Dulce. There I witnessed some of the best grassroots organizing I've ever seen. Despite a lack of running water or sewage in the community due to extreme poverty, the Committee meets once a week, sometimes with children in tow or at odd hours of the day, to hold their elected officials accountable. I was inspired, impressed, and deeply humbled.
We had lunch with the US/Mexico Border and Immigration Task Force, on which Emily Carey of the ACLU of New Mexico sits. Emily discussed the ACLU-NM’s work on privacy. Other members of the Task Force call for improved technology at the border to facilitate crossing. The ACLU-NM advocates for transparency of this information gathering, and notification for all people crossing the border about the information being collected. Read more about their border work here.
Knowledge of Emily’s work comforted me later as we toured the border and processing center at the Paso del Norte Bridge. Our professional and friendly Border Patrol hosts took us on a tour of the border, where they pointed out evidence of border violence spilling over and a woman waving her arms from the bridge, presumably to let a drug mule know it was safe to cross the water. Walking along the border, the challenges of their job were very real to me. However, by being transparent about the information they collect, respecting privacy rights when a person declines to answer questions at a checkpoint, or treating detained persons with the dignity and respect a human deserves, Border Patrol can balance US safety with freedom.