January 22, 2014 Press Statement

ARIVACA RESIDENTS’ PRESS CONFERENCE STATEMENT
Border Patrol Tucson Sector Headquarters
01/22/14

ARIVACA COMMUNITY PRESS CONTACT INFORMATION:
520-398-3093
phparivacamedia@gmail.com
www.phparivaca.org

Good morning, nurse members of the press, fellow Arivacans, and supporters,

We have traveled the 64 miles from our small but vibrant community of Arivaca in order to read a public statement calling for public hearings on the impacts of interior Border Patrol checkpoints. We are also here to announce that we will be initiating a community-based monitoring effort of the Border Patrol checkpoint on Arivaca Rd.

On December 8th, 2013, over one hundred Arivaca residents and their supporters marched to deliver a petition to Tucson Sector Border Patrol Chief Manuel Padilla, calling for the immediate removal of the Border Patrol checkpoint on Arivaca Road, located 25 miles north of the border.  This petition has already been signed by over a third of adult residents in Arivaca, as well as by many local businesses; it outlines the serious negative impacts which the checkpoint continues to have on life in the Arivaca area.

Our petition reads as follows:

Though it was originally created as a tactical and temporary checkpoint, the Arivaca Road checkpoint has been in continual use at the same location for over six years while having no demonstrable effect on its stated purpose—to deter undocumented immigration. Instead, the checkpoint has had the following negative impacts:
-The checkpoint severely interferes with the constitutional rights of local residents.
Residents are intimidated by armed federal agents and subjected to improper questioning and warrantless searches in violation of their 4th, 5th and 14th?Amendment rights. It is not possible for Arivaca residents to leave northbound without passing through one of three area checkpoints. Thus, locals must pass through the checkpoint with regularity, sometimes daily, such that these constitutional rights violations are not merely occasional or minor inconveniences but rather frequent and substantial infringements. People of color experience greater scrutiny and longer detentions at the checkpoint; such racial profiling violates the law as well as the federal government’s own guidelines prohibiting any consideration of race or ethnicity in such encounters.

-The checkpoint has a severe economic impact on the local residents. ??The checkpoint implies that the area is dangerous to the public, deterring visitors, reducing tourism and dampening economic activity for Arivaca businesses and residents, despite the fact that the surrounding area is among the safest in the state (neighborhoodscout.com/az/crime/). ??The checkpoint also diminishes local property values.

-The checkpoint is part of the increasing militarization of border communities. ??The Arivaca Road checkpoint is part of a misguided border enforcement strategy that increases the tragic and unnecessary deaths of migrants, leading to a humanitarian crisis, which extends into the Arivaca community and beyond. Consequently, a generation of Arivaca children and young people are growing up in this militarized zone, where they are taught by experience that the erosion of civil and human rights, freedoms and quality of life is acceptable.??At great cost to local residents and U.S. taxpayers, the checkpoint on Arivaca Road has resulted in nothing but fear, anger and mistrust, perpetuating the fiction that increased militarization and the creation of “constitution free zones” are the best and only ways to respond to the complex economic and social issues of the borderlands.

For all of these reasons, this checkpoint must go.

That petition was signed by 230 residents. With the delivery of that petition on December 8th, we requested that Sector Chief Padilla respond to our petition for the immediate removal of the checkpoint within a month’s time, by January 8, 2014.  However, to date, we have received no response from Mr. Padilla or from any other Border Patrol official.

While Border Patrol frequently makes public statements insisting that they work in active dialogue with the borderlands communities in which they operate, this is obviously false. By refusing to even respond to our petition, the Border Patrol, as an agency, is undeniably attempting to ignore the very real concerns of the Arivaca community,

However, we are here today to state very clearly that we will NOT be ignored. Arivacans and residents of communities all along the southwest border deal daily with the negative impacts of militarization and the human tragedies caused by border enforcement policy and tactics.  We believe we have a responsibility to speak out against these ever-worsening conditions.  We Arivaca residents are here today to demonstrate our commitment to the demilitarization of border communities, and to outline our plans for moving forward in the face of blatant arrogance and non-responsiveness on the part of Border Patrol.

These plans include the following:
First, we are calling for a public congressional hearing to be held regarding the impacts of Border Patrol interior checkpoints. Last week, the ACLU of Arizona filed an administrative complaint with the Department of Homeland Security citing numerous rights violations at the Amado checkpoint and other Arizona interior checkpoints and called for a U.S. Justice Department investigation with the results publicly released. This ACLU complaint states that, “in many stops, it appears immigration enforcement is only a pretext for general criminal investigations, which the supreme court has found unconstitutional.” We are adding our voices to the call for such investigations, and we are doing our part to collect and make public the incidents of rights violations, mistreatment, harassment and racial profiling of Arivaca residents. We support a public hearing, or series of hearings, in which the negative effects of Border Patrol interior checkpoints can be heard and meaningfully addressed. Today we are calling on our elected representatives to respond to this urgent need.

Second, we are here to announce that beginning this February we will be initiating a community-based effort to independently monitor the Border Patrol checkpoint on Arivaca Road.  For too many years, the Border Patrol has been asked by Congress and the General Accounting Office to collect data at interior checkpoints so that their effectiveness and impact could be objectively verified. The Border Patrol has never complied with those requests. The last GAO report on interior checkpoints, which came out 5 years ago, lamented the dearth of checkpoint documentation.  Moreover, at the isolated rural checkpoint on Arivaca Road, agents act with virtual impunity with no third party oversight.  We residents of Arivaca will thus undertake a checkpoint monitoring program of our own. Our goals for checkpoint monitoring are threefold:  first, to gather the data that the Border Patrol itself should keep and report, including the documentation of any searches and seizures; second, we hope that our monitoring presence will deter rights violations, profiling, and other egregious behavior by border patrol agents;  third, monitoring the checkpoint as a community will make visible and concrete our opposition to interior checkpoints and, we hope, encourage other communities to do the same.

In conclusion:
Indifference and non-compliance on the part of the Border Patrol, and the lack of any significant oversight or accountability within the system in which Border Patrol operates, have led us to this point today.  We will not stand silently by as militarization of the borderlands grows ever greater.  We are steadfast in our commitment to bringing about the demilitarization of our border community, and we know that we are not alone in this struggle. As communities throughout the region as near as South Tucson and as far as South Texas are also questioning and resisting same and similar conditions, we are only strengthened in our resolve.

Even in the militarized border zone of Arivaca, we know that as a community, we have the right to peacefully document the actions of law enforcement agents operating in a public capacity.  We now intend to exercise that right and to make our findings public.

Our message is this: Border Patrol, WE WILL BE WATCHING.

We will now take questions from the press.