Make the Checkpoint A Thing of the Past

By Antonia Gallegos

By Antonia Gallegos

The residents of Arivaca, along with many supporters from other communities, are organizing to intervene in the progression of militarization in the area by challenging the existence of the border patrol checkpoint on Arivaca Road in Amado, AZ. The first step in the campaign strategy was to get local dialogue and support flowing around the issue by circulating a petition to be delivered to the Tucson Sector Border Patrol chief Manuel Padilla and a host of agencies, legislators, and media outlets. This petition was delivered on December 8, 2013 when over 160 local residents and supporters marched to the checkpoint itself and held a rally.  Over one third of the Arivaca population has signed the petition along with 10 local business and organizations.  And we have over 400 signatures of supporters living outside the area.  We are making a clear statement to the public that Arivacans are unified around this issue and are prepared to continue to push for the removal of the checkpoint.

The petition and general campaign strategy also serves as a model for other border communities negatively impacted by living south of BP inland checkpoints, including those as close as Tubac, AZ and as far as Brooks County in South Texas, demonstrating that even the smallest of border towns can and do resist.

marchingAlong with the petition a letter was delivered to the BP sector chief, requesting a response by January 8, 2014.  Well, that date came and went with no word.  On January 22, 2014 we held a press conference in front of the border patrol headquarters in Tucson, AZ.  At this press conference we announced that we are calling for congressional hearings and will begin a community volunteer effort to monitor the checkpoint on Arivaca Road in February 2014.  Arivacans will not be ignored.  Our message to border patrol is this; we are watching.

For Latinos and youth, stories of profiling and mistreatment abound. Many residents share a deep sense of anxiety and powerlessness when traveling through the checkpoint, feeling that continuing to be forced to stop and affirm their citizenship status to armed agents in order to leave the area is, at its basis, an unreasonable burden.

We have spent time researching the efficacy of Border Patrol checkpoints in achieving their stated purpose; deterring undocumented migration into the United States. Locals know well that it is extremely rare (if not altogether unheard of) to see migrants being apprehended at the checkpoint; migrant traffic simply routes around the checkpoint, funneling those entering the US without papers even further north through an unforgiving and deadly desert. As BP apprehensions continue to drop along the border and the death rate of migrants continues to rise, the checkpoint is one key piece of a border enforcement strategy that continually wields military tactics against civilian populations. Doing so largely in the service of outside political and economic interests, with highly questionable benefit to the safety and well being of the local population.

We are also engaged in a letter writing campaign and urge you to support us by writing a letter.  We have been collecting stories and documenting border patrol abuse since September 2013, working closely with the American Civil Liberties Union.  The ACLU filed a formal complaint on January 15, 2014 over how Border Patrol agents treat United States citizens at checkpoints in Southern Arizona.  Several of the stories cited in the complaint come from Arivaca residents.