Checkpoint Campaign

Demilitarize the Borderlands!

Make the Checkpoint A Thing of the Past!

By Antonia Gallegos

By Antonia Gallegos

We hold community campaign meetings every Sunday at 3pm at the Arivaca Humanitarian Aid Office. Our meetings are open to the public; all are welcome!

Arivaca residents are organizing to push back against the militarization of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. From the influx of large numbers of federal agents to the implementation of military infrastructure and technology in the desert, life in rural border communities has been radically altered by the rapid inflation of the border security establishment.

In place of border security, we promote a vision of the demilitarization of the borderlands. As a first step toward this vision, we have launched a campaign calling for the immediate removal of the inland Border Patrol immigration checkpoints that encircle our community. Like many communities in the US southwest, it is impossible to leave to attend school, go to work, run errands, or visit friends and family without being stopped at an inland immigration checkpoint, verifying your citizenship status, and possibly being subjected to further questioning, profiling, warantless searches, and at times incidents of verbal and physical abuse by armed Border Patrol agents.

Lying anywhere from 10-100 miles inland from the physical border between the United States and Mexico, the placement of these checkpoints on all major roads have locked down a huge swath of the borderlands for policing purposes. Checkpoints disable vehicle smuggling in order to force migration traffic to travel by foot through an expansive and treacherous desert terrain, leading directly to the increase of death and suffering in the borderlands. As a consequence of these checkpoints, our town has seen a drop in property values and tourism in the region, as it appears policed and dangerous to the public. Watch a video about the impact of checkpoints on the Arivaca community here. You can also read and sign our petition calling for the removal of the checkpoints, which has been signed by more than a third of the Arivaca population and ten local businesses and organizations.

Petition Delivery

marchingOn December 8th, 2013,  Arivaca residents and supporters peacefully marched to converge on the checkpoint on Arivaca road to deliver these petition signatures to Border Patrol personnel. Though invited to receive the petition, BP Tucson Sector Chief Manual Padilla did not show. In response to the demonstration, Border Patrol shut down the checkpoint for the day. Watch our two videos of the events of December 8th.

Checkpoint Monitoring

On January 22nd, 2014, after Chief Padilla neglected to respond to our demand for the removal of the checkpoint, we held a press conference at Border Patrol Headquarters in Tucson. There we announced a plan to initiate a community-based checkpoint monitoring effort.

We monitor the checkpoint for three reasons: 1) to act as a deterrent Border Patrol misconduct at the checkpoint as a third-party witnessing presence, 2) to record data on the activities of BP at the checkpoint as the agency has yet to make any data collected on individual checkpoint operations available to the public, 3) to keep our opposition to the checkpoint visible to the public. Our message to the Border Patrol is this: we are watching.

In the fall of 2014, we released a report with our findings from observing approximately 2,300 vehicle stops. A summary of our findings is as follows:

* Apprehensions: 0 apprehensions of persons without proper documentation were observed

* Narcotics: 0 interdiction of narcotics or contraband were observed

* Systematic Racial Profiling: Latino motorists were 26 times more likely to show ID than white motorists. Latino motorists were 20 times more likely to be pulled into secondary inspection than white motorists

See the full report here.

We hold trainings in checkpoint monitoring by request. If you are interested in helping us to monitor the checkpoint on Arivaca road, or to initiate a checkpoint monitoring effort in your community, we want to hear from you! Contact us by email or phone at our office.

From December 7th-8th of 2014, we held a 24-hour long vigil and monitoring effort to mark the one-year anniversary of the start of our checkpoint campaign. Notably during that 24 hour period, we recorded 160 Border Patrol vehicles passing in and out of our community. Read our press statement from that action here

Legal Action

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.

In addition, two Arivaca residents involved in monitoring the BP checkpoint filed a lawsuit against Border Patrol in U.S. district court in Tucson, AZ, asserting that Border Patrol agents have infringed and restricted their First Amendment rights by harassing, intimidating, retaliating against and threatening them with arrest for engaging in constitutionally protected speech. Border Patrol agents have erected barriers that restrict how close these observers can be to the checkpoint, parking vehicles in the monitors’ line of sight, and threatening the monitors with arrest. Read the full complaint here.

Ad-Hoc Federal Congressional Hearing

In February 2014, we made public our call for a federal congressional hearing on the negative impacts of the BP checkpoint on Arivaca Road. After receiving New York Times coverage of our monitoring efforts, Federal Congressman Raul Grijalva visited our community and pledged to organize an ad-hoc hearing. However, a date has not been set. Please consider writing a letter or making a phone call to tell Representative Grijalva that Arivacans want this hearing now!

Political Education and Community Outreach

We are engaged in an ongoing effort to bring information and resources about the root causes of migration and border security to the Arivaca community. We regularly hold presentations, film screenings, and discussions about issues in the borderlands and we bring speakers and experts to the community. Call the office to find out about upcoming events and workshops.

We are also in the process of reaching out to strengthen our ties and spread resources to other communities impacted by militarized border enforcement. We are available to give presentations, trainings, or to simply come and listen. Please contact us by phone or email if you would like to request a visit to your community.